By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON - Three New England states agreed to hire a management company to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs for Medicaid patients.

Following the example of major companies, the governors of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont joined together to form the nation's first multistate prescription drug purchasing pool aimed at providing lower-priced drugs for the region's 330,000 Medicaid patients. They are accepting bids through Jan. 9 from pharmacy benefits management companies interested in running the pool.

Each state estimated the purchasing pool would save it between 10 percent and 15 percent annually on prescription drug programs.

The pool is an outgrowth of a recent meeting of the three governors called by New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen to discuss common health-care concerns.

"It made sense for us to work with Vermont and Maine because our populations, geography and economies are very similar," said Pamela Walsh, spokeswoman for Shaheen. "We are very similar states with very similar health-care challenges."

By joining together, the states will save on the costs of administering their Medicaid prescription drug purchases, and also will be in a better position to negotiate for lower prices from pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to a statement released from Shaheen's office.

The less expensive drugs also will be available to uninsured residents and businesses through an enrollment.

No Comments