President Donald Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Recently, the Trump Administration proposed legislation regarding drug rebates and pricing structure practices that would lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for patients. This is a critical issue for communities across Louisiana — for all patients and especially those living with chronic conditions like epilepsy. As an organization devoted to advocating for patients with epilepsy, the Epilepsy Alliance Louisiana is encouraged by the ideas that this proposal, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, puts forward. This rebate legislation could increase access to affordable medications for patients, specifically for patients reliant on Medicare.

Health care debate is about to shift

More than 18 percent of Louisiana residents are enrolled in Medicare programs, with 20 percent of those beneficiaries relying on Medicare due to disability rather than age. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 54,000 individuals living with epilepsy in Louisiana, and many of these patients rely on Medicare for health insurance and access to their prescription medications. Therefore, it is critical that we support the recent HHS rebate proposal, as it would make strides toward clarifying the opaque and ineffective drug rebate system under Medicare Part D.

The drug rebate system that is currently in place provides middlemen much of the power over rebate utilization, allowing them to pocket the savings generated by negotiated rebates and leading to more expensive drug prices at the pharmacy counter. The administration’s new rule would make sure that rebates are passed directly to the patient — promoting increased medical access for beneficiaries at prices they can afford.

Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures and can occur due to a multitude of reasons, regardless of age, gender, or race. There are different types of seizures, all of which occur when there is a malfunction in the electrical system in the brain. Prescription medications, especially anticonvulsants, are a critical part of epilepsy treatment plans. These drugs are essential to the everyday health of patients with epilepsy, and it is imperative that we advocate for any legislative changes that make these drugs more affordable.

This proposed rebate restructuring rule could be a huge step toward lowering out-of-pocket costs for patients. We encourage HHS to move forward with this proposal and others like it for the sake of patients in Louisiana and across the country. Beneficiaries deserve affordable access to life-saving prescription drugs, without interference from middlemen and this new rule will create a more transparent, patient-centered approach to the drug rebate distribution system.

Allison DeBattista

executive director, Epilepsy Alliance Louisiana

Baton Rouge