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Maryland County Executives Back Drug Affordability Board

From Afro

By Micha Green

Maryland lawmakers are taking action to manage prescription drug prices and gouging, by working to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board in the state.

On Jan. 3 County executives from throughout the state of Maryland met in order to support the proposal for a drug affordability board in hopes of reducing the rising health care costs.

“Proud to stand with leaders across the state to support legislation to keep prescription drug costs affordable for all,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wrote on Twitter.

“We know that these drugs can be sold for a lot less money. It’s done in other countries. Maryland has always been a leader, and we can lead on this,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman.

Maryland has definitely been a leader in the fight for pharmaceutical prices.  First introduced in spring 2017, Maryland lawmakers worked on legislation, HB 631, to prevent price gouging of generic drugs, the first of its kind in the country. Set to take effect in October of 2017,  HB 631 would have prevented generic pharmaceutical companies from “unconscionable increases,” according to FDA Law Blog.  In addition, the bill authorized the Maryland Medical Assistance Program (MMPA) to notify the attorney general when the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a prescription drug increases by at least 50 percent from the cost from the preceding year, if the price paid by MMAP would increase by at least 50 percent or if the WAC for a 30-day supply or full course of treatment is more than $80.

However the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM) filed a lawsuit against the state of Maryland for their efforts to regulate price gouging, particularly in regards to HB 631.  In October of 2018 Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh worked for SCOTUS to review the bill.

Despite the battle against generic pharmaceutical companies, other states such as Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and nearby in Virginia were inspired by Maryland’s efforts to combat price gouging, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board, introduced by Prince George’s County Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D) and Baltimore County Senator Kathy Klausmeier (D), is yet another means of Maryland stepping up to take a stand against rising pharmaceutical costs.

While all the leaders agreed there is a need for regulating price gouging, some mentioned the concern over rising costs as they work to cover County employees.

“I remind folks that even on the local government level, really the escalating costs each year, for employees throughout local government, really has become unsustainable,” said the sole Republican County Executive Barry Glassman, who represents Harford County, according to an article featured on the “Health Care for All” website from {The Daily Record}. “Each year we have to choose between whether we are going to give our employees a raise or if, in fact, we are going to cover some of their prescription costs. You can imagine for a local government, a local family, that these costs are just becoming unmanageable for any working family, any working government.”

Similarly to HB 631, even if the drug affordability board is supported legislatively in Maryland, it will likely face opposition and legal challenges from pharmaceutical companies.  However, the creation of a board will be a major topic during the upcoming legislative session.