Health coalition pushes ban on brand-name drug price gouging
Jan. 16, 2018
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Brand-name medication and specialty drugs would be protected from price gouging under a proposal by a Maryland health care coalition.
The Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition on Tuesday in Annapolis announced its intention to make prescription drugs more affordable, building off the success of a 2017 price gouging law.
Last year, that law became the first in the nation to prohibit price gouging of generic and off-patent drugs.
The goal moving forward is to make brand name and specialty drugs — including those for multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and more — more affordable, according to a coalition news release.
Prices for specialty drugs rose by an average of nearly 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, marking the largest annual increase in more than a decade, according to a 2017 study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.
AARP researchers found the annual cost of therapy with one specialty drug used on a regular basis was nearly $52,500 in 2015.
Larry Zarzecki, 55, a Baltimore native with Parkinson's disease, spoke about the high cost of multiple medicines.
After falling due to an episode caused by his condition, shattering vertebrae and learning to walk, talk and feed himself again, Zarzecki founded Movement Disorder, Education & Exercise. The company is designed to help Marylanders manage and live with movement disorders like Parkinson's.
Zarzecki said he can't afford two major drugs, Duopa and Nuplazid, which could help with his disease on top of what he's already taking.
"If I wasn't taking the number of drugs I'm taking now, I would not be able to stand here steadily and talk to you right now," Zarzecki said. "I'd be sitting."
Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery, a gubernatorial candidate, said the current status of medication accessibility "perpetuates income inequality and unfairness."
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh supported the 2017 bill, commending the Maryland General Assembly in a release for giving the state a "necessary tool" for fighting unfair prices on prescription drugs.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, did not veto last year's bill but left it unsigned. He wrote a letter outlining his support of ensuring essential health care needs but said the legislation raised "legal and constitutional concerns."
Coalition President Vincent DeMarco urged Hogan to "live by the spirit of" his letter and support the coalition's measure.
Drug companies argued the law was unconstitutional and filed a suit to challenge it last summer. However, a federal judge refused to block it and the law went into effect Oct. 1.
DeMarco said the final bill is being drafted and will be a "pathbreaking way to address the problem" of expensive drugs.