SPRINGFIELD –State Senator Laura Murphy has advanced a measure that would make medications easier to obtain during shortages.

“Maintenance medications — those that must be taken on a regular basis to treat long-term conditions — aren’t the kind that can be skipped,” Murphy (D-Des Plaines) said. “We need to ensure that patients have access to the medications they need to survive.”

Murphy’s measure would require health insurance and managed care plans to cover brand-name prescription drugs if the generic drug is unavailable during a nationwide shortage.

Last summer, there were 309 ongoing drug shortages in the United States, marking the highest number in a decade. Among the medications affected are those used to treat cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and asthma. Insurance companies will typically cover either the generic or the brand name medication, but rarely both. During shortages, patients whose insurance only covers the generic drug are given the option to purchase the brand-name medication at many times the normal cost.

“By making brand-name medication available through insurance when generics aren’t available, we will save patients both time and money,” Murphy said. “Instead of calling every pharmacy in the area to see if they have medication in stock, patients should be able to get their medication more quickly and with less stress.”

Senate Bill 2672 passed the Senate Thursday. It now goes to the House for further consideration.