BRUNSWICK — Too many Mainers are paying high drug prices just to stay alive.

That’s according to state Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, highlighting a new report in prescription drug prices in Maine.

“Individuals with chronic conditions don’t have a choice when it comes to taking regularly prescribed medication,” Vitelli said. “We need to do more to drive down costs and make it easier for people to get by.”

A summary of the report from Maine Health Data Organization notes that the most expensive drugs, as well as those with the highest year-over-year cost increases, are brand-name drugs.

Across all payers, the most frequently prescribed drug is a generic blood pressure medicine called hydrochlorothiazide. Just over a quarter of the most frequently prescribed drugs are cardiovascular drugs.

The second most frequently prescribed drug is the brand name drug Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction. The third most prescribed drug is an inhaler for treating asthma. There are four other varieties of inhalers in the top 25.

The report also found that the most frequently prescribed drugs vary in price, from under $5 to more than $646.

For commercial and Medicare Advantage plans, the most expensive prescription drug was Humira Pens, which are used to treat arthritis. Those plans spent more than $74 million on Humira Pens — three times the second most expensive prescription drug.

Many of the prescription drugs that saw the largest price increases were various brands of anticoagulants. Other drugs that saw large price increases were inhalers and cancer drugs.

Vitelli noted that many of the drugs on the list are meant to treat chronic health conditions.

The report draws on data collected by the Maine Health Data Organization, an independent agency established by the legislature in 1995. The organization has more than one billion records related to healthcare — everything from hospital financials to insurance claims.

The report is a requirement of a law signed in May.

According to the law, the agency is required to report the most commonly prescribed drugs in Maine, the most expensive prescription drugs and the prescription drugs that have most increased in price over the prior year. The data in the report is lagging, however. The prices in the report reflect prescriptions filled between Sept. 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017 — the most recent data available.

This isn’t the organization’s first venture into transparency in healthcare prices. The Maine Health Data Organization also runs, a website that details the average cost of the top 200 most common medical procedures in Maine, organized by a healthcare facility. Consumers can use the website to find where the cheapest location is in Maine for a specific procedure, such as knee surgery.

The prescription drug data will be added to the website in the future.

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