By Elly Yu

March 27, 2019

The Maryland House passed a measure to create a state board aimed at making prescription drugs more affordable on Wednesday. The measure now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

The bill would create a “Prescription Drug Affordability Board” that could set a cap on payment rates for certain prescription drugs. The bill was originally written to apply to all Maryland residents, but was scaled back to apply to only what state and local governments can pay for drugs for their employees.

“Soaring drug costs are a major burden for state and local governments, and this bill will help bring those down, which allows government to invest more in other public needs such as education and public safety,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the advocacy organization Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

Supporters say the state already has commissions that set hospital payment rates as well as utility rates.

But critics of the bill say the effort amounts to controlling prices. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has opposed the measure, saying that it would hurt consumers by affecting the ability of companies to provide patients with innovative drugs.

Similar legislation has been introduced this year in states including Massachusetts, Illinois and New Jersey, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2017, Maryland lawmakers passed a measure that would allow the state’s Attorney General to sue drug companies for significantly increasing prices, but the law was struck down by a federal judge. The Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal last month.

Last modified: March 28, 2019