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ADDRESSING DRUGS

Pharmaceuticals Council could save state millions

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The state of New Mexico’s first ever Interagency Pharmaceuticals Purchasing Council held its first public meeting Thursday, Aug. 29, in Santa Fe. The IPPC is charged with reviewing and coordinating cost-containment strategies for the purchase of pharmaceuticals by state agencies.

The council was created by a bill introduced by Las Cruces state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, who told council members Aug. 24 “to be aggressive and try to get the best deal possible for New Mexico citizens.”

“That’s what we are counting on them to do,” Steinborn said in a Sept. 3 telephone interview. “The whole country is looking at New Mexico,” he said, because it is the first state to undertake this effort which he said “checks a lot of options, turning over a lot of stones trying to find these savings.”

Steinborn said some healthcare professionals have said publicly the IPPC could save the state $50-$100 million a year on pharmaceuticals purchases. Even if it saves only 1 percent of the estimated $700 million the state spends each year, he said, that’s $7 million.

Under the law creating it, based on Steinborn’s bill, IPPC is required to explore 14 cost-containment strategies, Steinborn said, including looking at all state agencies doing a joint purchase under a single contract to partnering with other states to finding ways to maximize federal programs.

 “We created this vehicle and they are empowering it,” he said, noting that the enabling legislation “has transparency and oversight built into it,” including provisions mandating compliance with the state Opening Meetings Act and regular performance evaluations by the state Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), which Steinborn said had a representative at the Aug. 29 meeting.

Steinborn said he consulted with state agencies and healthcare professionals, asking them about the challenges and the opportunities of coordinated pharmaceuticals purchases, and then “brought together all these ideas, refined them and put them in the bill. Because different agencies represent different constituents with different needs and running the gamut from children to retirees, Steinborn said he crafted “a measured approach to look at solutions for better coordination without stepping into the unintended consequences of a one-size-fits-all approach.”

“It certainly met all my hopes for this first meeting,” Steinborn said. The Lujan Grisham administration “is extremely serious about this mission,” he said. “It’s an extremely complex subject matter, but the governor has some very experienced people on her team,” he said, including Human Services Department Sec. David Scrase. HSD administers the state Medicaid program, which spends more than $400 million a year on pharmaceuticals, Steinborn said, more than all other state agencies combined.

IPPS’ 11 members include Scrase, GSD Sec. Kenneth Ortiz, who is the chair, and representatives of the state Department of Health; state Children, Youth and Families Department; state Department of Corrections; GSD’s Risk Management Division, state Retiree Health Care Authority, state Public School Insurance Authority, Albuquerque Public Schools, the University of New Mexico and two representatives of local government.

Therese “Terry” Trujillo of the GSD is the IPPC coordinator.

For more information, contact Trujillo at 505-827-0096 and theresetrujillo2@state.nm.us. Visit www.generalservices.state.nm.us/ippc.aspx.

Mike Cook may be contacted at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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