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Maryland Lawmakers Push Affordable Prescription Drug Bill

By Amy Lu

WBOC 16

Maryland lawmakers say prescription drug prices are far too high for many people. Now, some lawmakers are calling it a “life or death” issue. With the 2019 legislative session kicking off on Wednesday, a new bill is in the works to possibly change that.

The bill is called the 2019 Prescription Drug Affordability Board Act and one that could bring relief for Larry Zarzecki of Stevensville.

Zarzecki takes seven different medications daily to treat his Parkinson’s disease. They’re seven bottles, Zarzecki says, that take care of both his health and his wallet. It’s the best treatment he can get.

“There is a drug on the market that’s a gel. It’s $6,000 a month,” Zarzecki said. “I can’t afford that.”

Some Maryland lawmakers, like Democratic Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, want to change that by pushing the bill and, in effect, create a board that would oversee drug prescription prices throughout the state. A similar bill introduced last year died on the Senate floor.

“I see a lot of support,” Pena-Melnyk said. “People really get that it is really important and I know we are very committed to finding a solution. I see a difference and I feel a difference.”

If passed, the board would include five members who would identify and set fair payment rates and a maximum limit to drug prices. The bill has garnered mostly Democratic support so far and may just get enough support from Republicans too.

GOP Del. Johnny Mautz says similar bills will also be introduced in this year’s Maryland General Assembly.

“Something has to be done about it,” Mautz said. “We have to find specific problems and address them individually, otherwise it would be the same argument that’s been had over the years.”

The Maryland Citizen’s Health initiative presented the bill last week in Cambridge. The organization says 45 million Americans did not fill their prescriptions in 2016 due to cost.