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Op-Ed: Make America healthy again

Make America healthy again

The Frederick News-Post
Delegate Karen Lewis Young, Frederick

The Washington Post recently published an article citing the fact that “Americans spend approximately 90 percent more for the medicines they use, as a percentage of income, than do citizens of the five largest European markets,” Moreover, for every dollar that we spend on health care, the largest percentage goes to prescription drugs.

As health care costs continue to spiral, we must examine and correct the systemic causes. Last year the Maryland General Assembly brought forward and passed two measures that have helped to stabilize the Affordable Care Act. We have already witnessed a slowdown, and some examples of decreases, in new health insurance premium rates in our state.

But one of the biggest drivers of health care costs still needs to be addressed. HB1194, which would have established a prescription drug cost review commission to protect stakeholders from excessive costs of prescription drugs passed in the House but not the Senate. This legislation would also create a drug cost review advisory board to assist the commission.

It may come as no surprise to learn that the pharmaceutical industry strongly opposed this measure. They claim that it takes years of research and development to bring a drug to market. While that is certainly true, there are far too many examples of prescription drugs that have been on the market for well over a decade and still selling at exorbitant prices. Also, there are numerous instances of prescription drugs that sell for a fraction of the cost in Europe and Canada.

A close examination of some data on expenditures reveals that in a recent year, nine of the largest pharmaceutical companies invested $56.5 billion in research. During the same time period, they dispersed $89.3 billion (or 58 percent more) on advertising. This fact raises the obvious question regarding where our money is really going.

During the 2019 legislative session, you will see a return of the drug commission proposal. In addition, I intend to introduce some supplementary measures that will require greater transparency, promote alternative accessibility, and consider other rebates or penalties that will discourage drug price increases.

One of the biggest issues in this election is the rising cost of health care. You should expect your candidates at the state and federal levels to have some solid ideas on how to deal with this challenge. Just acknowledging that there is a problem is not sufficient!

When I was picking up a prescription at the pharmacy recently, an elderly couple were in line in front of me. The cost of the wife’s prescription had just gone up significantly. She turned to her husband and asked, “What should we do?” His response was, “I guess that we’ll just have to cut back on our grocery list.” No one should have to decide between their medicine and their food or their rent and their medicine. We must take some innovative and bold actions to make America healthy again.

Delegate Karen Lewis Young, Frederick, is seeking re-election to the Maryland House of Delegates in District 3A