The right prescription for Texas

It’s not often you can point to industries that so directly and dramatically impact both lives and livelihoods. But that’s exactly what the biopharmaceutical and life science sectors are doing in Texas and for Texans.

State policymakers and taxpayers would be wise to take notice of the importance of these sectors as well as the ways in which state and federal policies can impact them — and, by extension, individual Texans’ physical health and pocketbooks.

Today, more than than 3,900 life science and research firms make Texas their home, and they’re supporting tens of thousands of Texans in direct and indirect jobs. But for me, as someone who has worked for decades representing patients with kidney disease, it’s the far-reaching impact that the biopharmaceutical and life science sectors have on health that matters most.

Thanks to medicines created in research labs or tested right here in our state, Texans and patients the world over are offered hope and health. Whether it’s Austin-based Pain Therapeutics' work to bring new chronic pain treatments to patients or Lumos Pharma’s research into a genetic condition that can cause the brain not to function properly, there are numerous examples of innovation that are Texas grown.

A recent biotech and life science study by the office of Governor Greg Abbott ranked Texas third nationally for the number of clinical trials, meaning the state truly is a trailblazer in bringing life-saving, health-improving treatments to patients. That’s also why state and federal policies that shape and impact the industry are something we cannot overlook.

Take proposed changes to Texas’ Medicaid program that would effectively shift drug formulary decisions away from doctors and into the hands of health insurance companies. Such a move could restrict doctors’ abilities to prescribe medicines they determine are best suited for their patients, posing a risk to millions of Texans and potentially hurting the most vulnerable population served by Medicaid.

Texas’ Medicaid program already spends less per-enrollee on prescription drugs, than Medicaid programs in 47 other states. Not only is Texas’ Medicaid prescription drug program efficient with costs that are tightly managed, but most importantly the program treats all patients equally—no matter where in the state they live.

Texans deserve to have the right medicines at the right time, based on their doctors’ recommendations, and they should be able to access those medicines regardless of the neighborhood they live in or what plan covers them.

Not only would proposed changes to the Texas Medicaid formulary shift an important health care decision away from the trained professionals that treat patients, it would also greatly reduce access to new medications that are more effective and have fewer side effects. Only health insurance companies — not patients, not doctors and not state taxpayers — would benefit if Medicaid prescription drug decisions were handed over to insurers.

The benefits of strong biopharmaceutical and life science sectors for those living with a disability or a disease are extensive, and all Texans deserve to have access to these far-reaching therapies.

Access to the right medicines, the development of new and better drugs and a robust life science sector in Texas can help people lead the best, most productive lives, while providing for a strong economy.

Patient Access for a Healthy Texas is a coalition of patient, healthcare professional, and business organizations committed to public policy to ensure access to health care and treatment for Texans.

Rita Littlefield, Texas Renal Coalition

Rita Littlefield is a longtime Texas patient advocate and a founding member of the Texas Renal Coalition.