New Ohio law aims to make life-saving medicine more accessible and more affordable

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TOLEDO (WTVG) - A new bill has been signed into law by Governor Kasich that aims to make sure people have access to life-saving medicine here in Ohio.
It's called the Epinephrine Accessibility Act. It was sponsored by Representative Derek Merrin of Monclova Township.

A lot of Ohioans rely on epinephrine auto-injectors to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. The new law was a response to a huge price hike from the maker of EpiPens. As you may know, the cost skyrocketed to $600 dollars per pack. The goal with the new law is to give people more options and save them money.

Representative Merrin says epinephrine auto-injectors are critical to a lot of Ohioans, "Thousands of people are put in difficult situations because the price of EpiPens is out of control"

Representative Merrin says the new law will help change that. First, it allows pharmacists to substitute a prescribed, brand-name auto-injector for a pharmaceutically equivalent auto-injector. Merrin says that means pharmacists can give you cheaper, but equally effective versions, "It is a win-win for the community and it creates a better regulatory landscape for patients to get the medicine they need at a better price."

The law also allows pharmacists to dispense auto-injectors to people 18 and older without a prescription once the pharmacist establishes the adult patient has already received an initial prescription. That means you would not have to go back to your doctor every year for a new prescription.

Kevin Secrest is the Pharmacy Manager at Ryan Pharmacy, "The pharmacist is empowered to do what they are trained to do and that is to get medicine into the hands of the people who need it. The EpiPen prices were escalating at rates I hadn't seen in quite some time. Having this legislation allows us to substitute to get patients the medicine they need at a more affordable price."

It's tough to pinpoint the fiscal impact of the new law, but Representative Merrin expects the savings to eventually be significant, "The real savings will be when the market opens up. It will happen when other manufacturers and competitors get a space in the market."

The new law was a bi-partisan effort. It was unanimously passed by both the House and Senate before it was signed by Governor Kasich.
It will go into effect in about 90 days.

Representative Merrin hopes to expand this to other medicines and devices. He also expects this to be a model for other states to adopt.