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January 3, 2019
By: Alex DeMetrick

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (AP) — Leading local officials in Maryland’s largest counties are expected to support a proposal to create a state board to review the affordability of prescription drugs.

“They’re absolutely devastating at times,” said Larry Zarzecki.

For Larry Zarzecki, the medication is for Parkinson’s Disease.

“My prescriptions, all in all, total about $3,800 a month,” Zarzecki said.

The bill that would establish a prescription drug affordability board is headed for Maryland’s legislature.

Several county executives are expected to endorse legislation on Thursday to create a prescription drug affordability board. They include Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.

“By saying to drug companies, you can’t charge these exorbitant prices to Marylanders, they will only pay a reasonable amount,” said Vincent DeMarco, President of Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.

Right now, it’s big pharma setting the prices, claiming increases cover development costs. Critics say it’s actually to cover the cost of non-stop advertising.

Seven county executives met to endorse the idea of a prescription drug board, Democrats and Republicans.

“We need to make this a priority,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “It’s a priority for our residents and should be a priority for all of us,”

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman also are expected to endorse the proposal, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner is expected to support the plan as well.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has endorsed the plan.

“Most counties are challenged with close to a 20 percent increase for their employees. So next to an upcoming recession, health care prescription costs are probably one of the most challenging issues that a local government faces,” said Harford County Executive Barry Glassman.

Just as electric rates are set by Maryland’s Public Services Commission, prescription rates would be set by a drug affordability board.

This idea has come up in the state legislature before and went nowhere. But could if be different this time?

“I think people have a real sense of what the impact has been and that it’s a different environment this time,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

Last modified: January 3, 2019