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Maryland ‘price gouging’ drug law set to take effect Sunday

Washington Examiner
Kimberly Leonard
September 28, 2017

The first state law going after the price of prescription drugs is set to go into effect in Maryland on Sunday, but a judge could still act to suspend the law.

“We’re seeking an injunction and we’re waiting on a ruling,” said Rachel Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Association for Accessible Medicines, which represents generic drugs. “We’re waiting on it — told the decision is coming by the end of this week.”

The law, passed in April and formally known as the “Prohibition Against Price Gouging for Essential Off-Patent or Generic Drugs,” gives the state attorney general authority to challenge drug companies when they have significantly raised the prices of a generic drug to an “unconscionable” level or one that is “excessive” and “not justified.”

Advocates say they hope the law can reduce healthcare costs and health insurance premiums. Opponents, including generic drugmakers, counter that the law’s language is too vague and likely violates the Constitution. They note that prescription drug prices are not set by states and that the power to regulate interstate commerce belongs to the federal government.

Though support for the bill was largely bipartisan, it did not come without controversy. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan allowed the law to pass without his signature. He called the goal of the bill “laudable,” but in a letter to House Speaker Michael Busch raised legal and constitutional concerns.

“I am not convinced that this legislation is truly a solution to ensuring Marylanders have access to essential prescription drugs, and may even have the unintended consequence of harming citizens by restricting their access to these drugs,” he wrote.

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