- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed two bills Wednesday aimed at expanding access to cheaper types of certain medicines and ensuring patients can take whatever drug works best for them, no matter the cost.

The first bill would allow pharmacists to fill prescriptions for generic biotech drugs, which are similar but not exact copies of biologic medicines produced in living cells.

The drugs typically are more expensive than chemical-based drugs.

“We want to make sure that Missourians have access to the healthcare they need without an insurance company or regulatory red tape getting in the way,” Nixon said in a statement. “While there are only a small number of pharmaceuticals to which this currently applies, it is important that Missouri lays the groundwork on this issue to help more patients in the future as this field of medicine expands.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry touted the measure in a Wednesday statement as a way to keep drug costs down for patients as well as employers that provide insurance.

It passed unanimously in the Senate and 144-1 in the House and will take effect in August.

The second bill includes new rules for step therapy, which is the practice of beginning treatments with cheaper drugs before moving patients to more expensive ones.

The measure will require health insurers to establish a process to allow patients to request not to do step therapy. Insurers would have to grant waivers to those who have already undergone step therapy and were taken off certain drugs deemed less effective or ineffective.

That means patients who have already undergone therapy, even those who went through the process with a different insurance provider, could remain on more expensive drugs that might work better for them.

It’s set to take effect in 2018.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 144-5 in the House with bipartisan support. It met pushback from insurance lobbyists.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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