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MD Senators: Bipartisan Support Needed to Help States Lower Drug Prices

This month, Maryland became the first state in the country to establish a prescription drug affordability board to help rein in drug prices. (Adobe Stock)
This month, Maryland became the first state in the country to establish a prescription drug affordability board to help rein in drug prices. (Adobe Stock)
July 29, 2019

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A new bill introduced by Maryland's U.S. senators to lower skyrocketing drug prices was left off as an amendment to another Senate bill passed last week on drug pricing.

But Democrats Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen say they'll continue to push for bipartisan support for their proposal.

The Empowering States to Address Drug Costs Act aims to boost efforts to lower prescription costs at the state level.

Jane Horvath, a health policy consultant, says the bill would allow state boards to collect drug pricing data to be able to work out better prices for patients.

"It is information that lets you know sort of what the best discounts are in the country, what the average sales price of particular drugs are,” she points out. “So, as state drug affordability boards go to negotiate or establish cost limits for drugs, they sort of know what some of the boundaries are in Medicaid."

Under current law, this information is confidential. Horvath says allowing access to the data will help states bargain with drug manufacturers to curb prices.

An aide to Cardin says the senator is hopeful he can get bipartisan support for the law on its own.

The bill follows a new law in Maryland that the pharmaceutical industry lobbied hard to block.

But as of July 1, the state has a prescription drug affordability board. It will have access to pricing and rebate data for Medicaid patients so it can negotiate better prices for Marylanders.

Nancy Carr, communications director for AARP Maryland, calls the board an important step to bring down the cost of life saving medications.

"This is the first board of its kind in the nation, and it establishes Maryland as a leader in making prescription drugs more affordable,” she states. “All levels of government have a part to play in making prescription drugs available and affordable to people, and so we commend our Senate delegation for their leadership role in this."

Maryland's board has blazed a trail for other states to help lower drug costs. Maine has just passed a law to form a drug affordability board, and Illinois and New Jersey are considering boards for their states.

Disclosure: AARP Maryland contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Energy Policy, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD