Legislation Aimed at Helping States Rein in High Cost of Drugs

Maryland’s U.S. senators have introduced legislation to help the state’s fledging prescription drug affordability board gather the information it needs to rein in high-priced medications.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Ben Cardin (D) have crafted the Empowering States to Address Drug Costs Act, a measure intended to provide states with average manufacturer price, best price and rebate calculation data under Medicaid.

That information, the lawmakers said, will help prescription drug affordability boards as well as multi-payer purchasing pools formed to help negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.

This year in Annapolis, lawmakers approved the nation’s first prescription drug affordability board, a panel charged with investigating the high cost of medications.

Although the original proposal created a board with the power to order reductions in drug prices in certain instances, the amended bill created a two-step process in which a panel of state lawmakers will have the final say after weighing evidence from the panel.

The pharmaceutical industry lobbied heavily to block the measure.

“States like Maryland are at the forefront of devising innovative solutions to bring relief to patients,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “And the federal government must do everything in its power to ensure they have the tools they need to enact meaningful reforms at the state level.”

Cardin, a member of the Finance Committee, said, “Maryland is working to make life-changing and life-saving prescription drugs more affordable. Our legislation would keep such programs nationwide on track, helping millions.”

Vincent DeMarco, head of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, the nonprofit that spearheaded the creation of the prescription drug board, said the senators’ bill will have two key benefits.

“It will help state government initiatives get as close as possible to the lowest costs in the marketplace and it will help avoid industry lawsuits that could happen if a state mistakenly exceeded Medicaid rebate levels,” he said in a statement.

“More federal support will be needed to protect states from industry lawsuits, but this is a really important place to start.”

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