ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland faith leaders urged lawmakers on Thursday to create a state board with powers to review high-priced drugs that can put medicine out of reach.
Democratic leadership has made prescription-drug affordability a priority of the legislative session, and the bill has picked up some bipartisan support. The Rev. Ken Phelps, of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, criticized the “unchecked profiteering” that has led to expensive drugs.
“We have an epidemic that has gripped this country for far too long, and the name of the disease is greed,” Phelps said.
The measure calls for creating an independent body with the authority to evaluate high-cost prescription drugs and set rates for Maryland residents to pay. The board would include five members, and it would review new brand-name prescription drugs that enter the market at $30,000 or more per year or course of treatment. It also would review existing brand name medications that increase in price by $3,000 or more, as well as existing generic medications that increase by 200 percent or more a year.
The board’s authority would be phased-in until it has full authority in 2024.
Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, said people shouldn’t have to cut their medicine in half because it’s too expensive.
“You have to listen to the doctor, you have to listen to your pharmacist and you have to take your medicine, but if you can’t afford it, it’s not going to do you any good,” Klausmeier said.
Nick McGee, a spokesman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the measure would enact price controls that would put a chill on innovation and limit patient access. He said the bill recycles failed ideas that give government broad authority to arbitrarily set prices and undermine the competitive market that is needed to bring down costs and deliver new treatments to patients.
“Patients in countries that implement price controls face delays and other challenges accessing critical medicines like cancer treatments,” McGee said.
McGee also pointed to other sources of price increases, including “middlemen like pharmacy benefit managers and insurers.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican, said he believes pharmaceutical companies should explain the huge price increases that are putting a strain on county governments as well as small businesses that provide health coverage for employees.
“It’s a national problem, and this bill is a good first step at bringing those folks in to justify these enormous price increases,” Glassman said at the news conference with Klausmeier and faith leaders.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said he supports looking at making prescription drugs more affordable.
“I think we need to take a look at making prescription drugs more affordable, and we’re going to work with the legislature to take a look at whatever legislation they’re proposing,” Hogan said at a separate news conference.
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