Las Vegas Sun

February 1, 2015

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Prescription drug bill would save Medicaid money

Three drugs to be designated as preferred medication

CARSON CITY – A bill to save the Medicaid program an estimated $760,000 a year is headed for the desk of Gov. Jim Gibbons after three prior failures.

The Assembly Sunday voted 41-0 with one absent to allow the division to declare three drugs as preferred medication.

Low-income citizens in the Medicaid program would have to take these preferred drugs unless their physician prescribed another brand.

Senate Bill 4 permits Medicaid to list certain medication brands involving antipsychotic, anticonvulsant and antidiabetic drugs as preferred medication.

Charles Duarte, administrator of the Medicaid program, told the Assembly that a committee of pharmacists and physicians determines if a certain drug is equivalent to others in the same category. And then it is declared a preferred drug enabling the state to receive rebates from the manufacturer since these medications will be used more heavily.

The legislation has been introduced in three prior Legislatures and has never been approved. The bill has a sunset, or expiration date, of June 30, 2011, to allow lawmakers to determine if it is working as projected.

The drugs that are listed as preferred must be therapeutically equal to other medications in the category. Medicaid has had a preferred drug list since 2004 for other medications and has saved $13 million, Duarte said.

If the preferred drug is not having the impact advertised, the physician can prescribe another drug in the same category. Duarte said the state has denied the recommendation of the doctor in less than one percent.

Patients who are using medication now outside the upcoming preferred list may continue on the present drug, Duarte said.

The bill was approved Saturday in the Senate 20-1 with Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, dissenting.

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