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Federal appeals court deals another setback to Maryland drug price-gouging law

Baltimore Sun
July 25, 2018
By: Pamela Wood

A federal appeals court has dealt another setback to a Maryland law aimed at limiting price spikes for generic drugs.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied the request of Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh for a re-hearing of a challenge to the law before the full court.

A three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled in April that the law, approved by state lawmakers in 2017, was unconstitutional.

The law gave the attorney general the authority to review price information about generic drugs. If the state’s lawyers could show that prices were being raised too steeply, they could seek to order the prices reduced, or issue fines to the drug companies.

An industry trade group, the Association for Affordable Medicines, challenged the law in court.

Frosh could let the ruling stand unchallenged or seek to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“We are reviewing the decision to determine our next steps,” said Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh’s office.

Vinny DeMarco is president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, a group that lobbied for the bill. He said he was disappointed the case wouldn’t get a re-hearing, and “we will support the AG in whatever he chooses to do to defend the law.”

Jeff Francer, general counsel for the Association for Affordable Medicines, called the court ruling a victory for patients.

The association argues that states should not attempt to regulate prescription drugs, which are sold through a national marketplace. Other states have reviewed Maryland’s law and chosen not to take the same approach, Francer said.

“The Maryland drug pricing law was fatally flawed and only would have made the drug pricing problem worse by destabilizing the generic marketplace,” he said.

Nine of the 4th Circuit’s judges voted against re-hearing the case. Three judges voted in favor. Two judges did not vote.