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Legislature passes bill to lower prescription drug costs, protect small pharmacies

The Alaska Legislature on Monday passed a bill designed to lower prescription drug costs and protect independent pharmacies.

Supporters of House Bill 240 said the bill sets guidelines for pharmacy benefit managers.

Pharmacy owners have complained that the benefit managers, such as giant CVS Health, have hurt drug stores with excessive audits and other requirements. Independent pharmacy numbers in Alaska have fallen to 26 from 34 in eight years.

A key part of the bill sponsored by Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks, bans so-called "gag clauses" in contracts pharmacies have with benefit managers.

The clauses prevent pharmacists from telling customers they could save money if they paid for medication in cash, outside their insurance plan.

The bill passed the House unanimously in April. On Monday, it was unopposed in the Senate, receiving 19 votes. Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, was excused from the meeting.

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