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Bill would create prescription drug affordability board

WBAL-TV
March 6, 2019
By David Collins

Legislation designed to hold down the cost of prescription medication is picking up support in Annapolis.

The measure, which has gained the support of the Maryland Association of Counties, would establish a prescription drug affordability board.

The bill’s supporters, including the mayor of Baltimore and several county executives, are taking to the airwaves to get support. Six radio ads are aimed at drumming up support of the legislation.

“People are making choices of whether to get their medication or pay their electric bills, to pay their mortgages, and that just should not be,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said.

Larry Zarzecki, who is living with Parkinson’s disease, pays $3,800 a month for medicine to manage his symptoms.

“I make a decision every day what to eat, how to rob Peter to pay Paul, per se, and make things work,” Zarzecki said.

The bill would create a five-member board with the authority to set rates.

“(The board would be) doing what we do for utilities and other industries. We regulate where we need to regulate,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said.

The board will review the cost of brand-name medications that enter the market at $30,000 or more a year. It would also review existing brand-name medications that increase in price by $3,000 or more per year or during the course of treatment, and it would review generic medications that increase by $300 or more a year. The proposal is backed by every county in the state.

“I am proud to announce that the Maryland Association of Counties debated and voted unanimously this morning to support these bills to bring affordability to prescription medication,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, president of the Maryland Association of Counties.

The pharmaceutical industry issued a statement that says, in part: “Senate Bill 759 misses the mark entirely. Instead, it recycles failed ideas that give government broad authority to arbitrarily set prices and undermine the competitive market that is critical to bringing down the costs and delivering new treatment to patients.”

Member companies of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, have invested more than $600 billion in the search for new treatments and cures.

The bill has 98 co-sponsors in the House alone. Although he hasn’t endorsed the legislation, Gov. Larry Hogan said he wants to take a look at making prescription drugs more affordable.