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New Law Protects Iowans from Non-Medical Switching of Medicines

When patients rely on a medication to keep them well, being forced to switch to a different drug can have serious, even life-threatening consequences.  

That tragedy will befall fewer Iowans next year, thanks to a successful effort that limits insurers’ ability to change the drugs they cover for patients. House File 626 enjoyed broad bipartisan legislative support as well as the backing of patient advocacy groups and health care providers, who know that switching medications for non-medical reasons can cause serious harm. Governor Kim Reynolds recently signed the bill into law. 

Switching Has Serious Consequences 

Insurers keep a watchful eye on the bottom line but cutting costs by changing patients’ prescriptions undercuts treatment decisions made by doctors in consultation with their patients.  

Just because some medications may be used to treat the same condition – migraine, high cholesterol or asthma, for example – doesn’t mean one is a good substitute for another. Forcing a patient to make such a change can result in the reemergence of symptoms, new side effects or negative drug-drug interactions. It also contributes to non-adherence. Research shows up to 10% of patients may be hospitalized with complications after a non-medical switch required by their insurer.  

The downstream costs, including more medical appointments, increased risk of hospitalization and lengthy appeals processes, can negate any pennies saved by the switch.  

Elation for Better Patient Protections 

“This legislation provides essential protection for our patients,” explained Michael Brooks, MD, a rheumatologist from Cedar Rapids and member of the Alliance for Patient Access. “It will help patients maintain access to the medications that have been proven to work for their condition without being forced to switch midyear for non-medical reasons.” 

Brooks went on to call the new law a “significant win” for patients. It’s a win for clinicians, too, who often see their trust with patients suffer when insurers interfere with access to prescribed treatments.  

The Iowa Continuity of Care Coalition and the Iowa chapter of Alliance for Patient Access, supporters of the years-long effort, are also celebrating the hard-won victory for patients.  

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