Several Maryland lawmakers, including two Prince George’s County politicians, have endorsed legislation to curb the rising cost of prescription drug prices in the state, hoping to give financial and medical relief to residents and push back against big pharmaceutical companies.
The proposed legislation would create a state board, selected by the governor and other state officials, that would have the ability to monitor and set drug prices in Maryland. Currently, pharmaceutical companies set these prices themselves.
Representatives across Maryland — including Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and state Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s) — met in Cambridge at a conference Thursday to support establishing this board. The Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, an affordable health care advocacy group, originally proposed the board.
Without insurance, some prescription drugs can cost upward of $30,000 a year, according to GoodRx, a website that tallies drug prices. While the amount of Maryland residents with health insurance has risen in recent years, the Census Bureau estimates that 6.1 percent of Marylanders were still uninsured in 2017.
From 2008 to 2016, the price of branded prescription drugs nearly doubled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Many drug manufacturers have increased their prices to start 2019, and that trend is expected to continue, according to Rx Savings Solutions.
“This issue is a life or death issue, it is not a luxury,” Alsobrooks said at a press conference Thursday. “There is no better time than now to address this issue.”
While this could relieve citizens’ wallets, it may also earn more pushback from pharmaceutical companies who wish to establish their own drug prices.
The General Assembly will discuss the legislation on Jan. 9, when it reconvenes for 2019. More than 100 House of Delegate members have endorsed the legislation, according to the MCHI.
A similar bill was introduced last year, but it failed to pass before the end of the session. Peña-Melnyk, who sponsored that bill, is also the lead sponsor of the new version.
“A lot of people … are making the choice between paying their rent or their mortgage, or buying their food,” Peña-Melnyk said at the press conference. “A lot of people are living check-to-check, and this is important.”