Albany Agenda

NY Senate passes prescription drug affordability package

Co-pay-free insulin anyone?

State Senate Democrats want to make prescription drugs more affordable in New York.

State Senate Democrats want to make prescription drugs more affordable in New York. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Democratic state senators passed a legislative package Tuesday aimed at making prescription medications and health care more affordable. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins was joined by state Sens. Gustavo Rivera, Neil Breslin, Nathalia Fernandez, Zellnor Myrie and James Skoufis as they announced the legislation. “Started with insulin, we're moving along the line, all to address the great affordability crisis that's spreading all over New York,” Health Committee Chair Rivera said. 

Inflation made life difficult for many New Yorkers over the past few years, and health care is especially expensive in the state according to the Empire Center for Public Policy. In recent years the state Legislature saw multiple pushes to expand health care, make it universal, cheaper or easier to obtain, but lawmakers have honed in on drug costs. 

They picked a good moment to do so as pharmaceutical manufacturing giants Pfizer, Sanofi and Takeda Pharmaceutical raised the prices of more than 500 prescription drugs this month. Solutions from lawmakers included Rivera’s bill that would allow the state to partner directly with drug manufacturers to secure lower drug prices, another from the Bronx lawmaker that would eliminate insulin co-pays and a bill from Skoufis that would allow New York to import prescription drugs from other countries. According to him, doing so would break up a drug monopoly that leaves consumers paying more than they can afford. 

“Virtually every single commodity service exists in a system of free trade and international competition, except for pharmaceutical drugs,” said Skoufis. “Here in the United States, big pharma has created this racket whereby the industry controlled a monopoly.”

Parts of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent budget proposals mirrored some of the legislation, prompting Rivera to say, “I'm glad the governor stole my bill,” about legislation ending insulin co-pays. 

“We are very, very committed to making sure that New York is affordable,” said Stewart-Cousins. “That means that the necessary drugs are affordable and that we are doing what we can to make sure that taking your medication is not something that you just tried to do because you have so many other things to do. We know that your health is your wealth.”