Apri 10, 2017

The Maryland state Senate passed legislation Friday that gives the state attorney general authority to pursue companies that price gouge generic drugs.

The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation, and it’s designed to be a deterrent.

Lawmakers are hearing the public outcry.

  • The cost of naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose, doubled in the past couple of years.
  • The price of an EpiPen ballooned from $50 to $600.
  • The price of doxycycline, an antibiotic used to fight infections, has increased from $20 to more than $1,800 in six months — an 8,000 percent increase.
  • The cost of albuterol, an asthma medication, shot up from $11 to $434 in six months — a 4,000 percent increase.

“It has been the Wild West for prescription drug prices. There’s a new sheriff in town who’s going to say don’t do those things that hurt people,” said Vinnie Demarco, president of Health Care for All.

The bill authorizes the state attorney general to take legal action to prevent or go after companies suspected of price gouging generic medication. Under the bill, the attorney general can do this on his own or through a complaint.

“Civil action — we will be able to get damages and be able to get an injunction to stop them. It will also send a message: don’t do that. Don’t have these price increases of thousands of percent that really hurt people,” Demarco said.

Republican senators pushed back on the bill.

“I think it grants the attorney general powers well beyond his constitutional authority. I submit the due process of this exercise is offense,” said Sen. Robert Cassilly, R-Harford County.

The Senate rejected two amendments, passing the bill 38-7.

There are minor differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Supporters believe those will be easily ironed out and the bill will reach the governor’s desk before the end of the legislative session.

Last modified: May 9, 2017