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Discussing the high costs of prescription drugs

Americans have to deal with the rising costs of prescription drugs every day. But why are these costs so high? Elected officials tried tackling that question at the University of Minnesota Rochester - where they heard the frustrations of one pharmacist at a public hearing.

Posted: Oct 2, 2019 11:06 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2019 5:21 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Deborah Keaveny owns a pharmacy in Winsted where she often sees customers struggle to pay for medications.

"It's getting harder and harder for them to afford things," Keaveny said. "We're seeing people decide I'm going to take just two of these meds, not one of them, I'm not going to take the one that's best for my condition because my co-payment is too high, we work with the doctor and the patient to find less expensive, not ideal treatment."

Keaveny asks legislators for more transparency. It's difficult for family-owned stores to compete against pharmacy benefit managers or "PBMs." Keaveny says they steer her customers to big chains.

"Stop poaching my patients, pay me adequately," Keaveny said. "I think they need to be totally transparent so everyone understands the flow of the money, because when you see the flow of the money, it actually makes you a bit angry because the folks in the middle, the middle men, the PBMs, they are the ones driving up the prescription drug costs."

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt acknowledges that's a problem.

"Well, you know, obviously there's a lot of issues that impact Minnesotans, the cost of healthcare is one of the largest things that has been the biggest issues in the last couple of election cycles. It's a big problem for Minnesota family budgets."

Keaveny knows what she wants legislators to do.

"Make it totally transparent so everybody can see how the nickles and the pennies move including the dollars, make it a level playing field, make the PBMs fiducially responsible to the patient and financially responsible to the plan they represent," Keaveny said.

After the public hearing, legislators got to tour the Mayo Clinic.

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