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Fighting for fair drug prices

Baltimore Sun
Brian J. Feldman
July 13, 2017

Contrary to Chester Davis Jr.’s recent commentary in this esteemed newspaper, Maryland’s new price-gouging law, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, will help thousands of Marylanders as they struggle to afford to pay for their prescription drugs (“Marylanders misled by drug pricing bill,” July 11). We have all seen how some manufacturers of off-patent or generic prescription drugs have dramatically increased the price of life-saving drugs like EpiPens and naloxone. Now, in Maryland, these manufacturers will have to think twice about this practice because, as of October 1, Attorney General Brian Frosh will have the ability to sue such companies if they raise their prices “unconscionably.”

Mr. Davis alleges that the new law is too vague. The attorney general can only take action against a drug company under the new law if it raises prices “unconscionably” in a way which harms consumers without any justification and where there is no meaningful competition in the marketplace for the drug. Contrary to his assertion, there is a long history of legal precedent in Maryland defining when actions are “unconscionable.” I am confident that Mr. Frosh will respect these limitations.

The writer also asserted that the law should have addressed patented brand name drugs. Mr. Davis surely must know that federal courts have ruled that states cannot enact a price gouging law on such drugs. Recently, I learned that Mr. Davis’ organization has filed suit seeking to get the new law thrown out as being unconstitutional notwithstanding the fact that it was carefully crafted to apply only to the kind of prescription drugs that the federal courts have specifically left open for states to regulate.

Finally, Mr. Davis implied that the public was misled and that Gov. Larry Hogan opposed the bill. However, the op-ed omitted the fact that both the Senate and the House of Delegates held comprehensive public hearings and briefings during the 2017 legislative session to fully understand the depth and breadth of the prescription drug pricing problem that plagues many Marylanders. And, after those extensive hearings, the General Assembly passed the bill with support from both parties and Governor Hogan chose to allow the bill to become law. Marylanders can be very proud that the General Assembly enacted this critical legislation which goes a long way to protect all of us from skyrocketing drug price increases.

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