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Advocates Want Drug Board to Control Prescription Costs

According to the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, 45 million Americans did not fill their prescriptions in 2016 due to cost. (qimono/Pixabay)
According to the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, 45 million Americans did not fill their prescriptions in 2016 due to cost. (qimono/Pixabay)
January 29, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland General Assembly will be reviewing legislation that would create a first-of-its-kind board to make high-cost prescription drugs more affordable for Marylanders.

Many lawmakers have called it a life-or-death issue. Now they're proposing the 2019 Prescription Drug Affordability Board Act, which could bring relief to folks like Michele Hopkins, whose son has Type 1 diabetes.

Hopkins said she remembers paying less than $100 for her son's insulin medication several years ago. Now she is paying more than $600 for a three-month supply while being forced to deal with unknown generic brands covered by her insurance company.

"So the cost has extremely rocketed,” Hopkins said. “And it put the strain on the family, my family budget, in trying to make sure he gets his medication to stay alive. So, it's very stressful."

The issue is being pushed by the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative and has received bipartisan support, with the majority Democrats. If passed, the board would include five members who would identify and set fair payment rates and a maximum limit for drug prices.

Dozens of organizations have signed a petition urging the General Assembly to create a drug panel, including the NAACP, AARP and various mayors and county executives from across the state. Tammy Bresnahan is director of advocacy for AARP Maryland.

"One-in-four Marylanders report having difficulty paying for their prescription drugs,” Bresnahan said. “So that's why AARP Maryland is involved."

A bill creating a prescription price review board was considered during last year's legislative session, but did not advance. Democratic Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk of Prince George's County and Sen. Katherine Klausmeier of Baltimore County are the lead sponsors of the legislation.

Volunteer advocates at AARP Maryland plan to be on Capitol Hill today to urge Congress to help keep prescription meds affordable and accessible.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD