Sky High Prescription Drug Prices Have Md. Legislators Looking For Consumer Relief

WTOP NEWS: Skyrocketing prescription drug prices are forcing Maryland legislators to look at several solutions to try to bring those costs down for citizens.

One man who testified before Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee last week said he has to pay around $800 for just an ounce of medication.

“How many of us, like me, are making decisions whether to eat, heat or treat a condition like I have?” he told the committee. “It’s neurodegenerative and there’s no cure.”

Patients like him voiced their support for a bill that may one day limit the pricing on specific medications.

Introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly, the Lowering Prescription Drug Costs for All Marylanders Act of 2024 would allow the state’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board to set up “upper payment limits” for drugs that they deem unaffordable.

“A staggering one in three Marylanders reporting that they have skipped a dose to ration medication, or left a prescription at the pharmacy counter due to cost,” said Sen. Dawn Gile of Anne Arundel County who introduced the bill.

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which was created five years ago, can already set upper payment limits or “UPL” for state and local government healthcare plans. The new bill would expand their authority to impose a UPL for all Marylanders.

“People who have insurance who have high copays … your copay will go down. If the amount that the insurance company pays for the drug is significantly lower, your percentage goes down of your coinsurance and your copay,” said Vinny DeMarco with the Mental Health Care for All Coalition, who argued in support of the bill.

But Brad Stewart with the Maryland Tech Council who also testified at the senate finance hearing is unconvinced this will save patients any money.

“This PDAB does not accomplish that,” he said. “Its goal is to reduce the price that the state and local governments pay for the drugs, not one person has yet testified or agree that $1 of those savings will go to a consumer.”

“It five years ago, this body had said we’re going to contract with GoodRx and make sure that every person who walks into a pharmacy in the state of Maryland just has a paper card and says, don’t charge me more than this rate, tens of millions of dollars a year would have been saved by now,” he argued.

Opponents also argued the bill could keep rare and expensive medicines out of the state, forcing people to leave Maryland to seek the drugs.

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