Advocates for Rx Affordability Attempt to Nudge Hogan With Poll

    A poll released Tuesday found that Maryland residents strongly support a measure approved by the General Assembly this session designed to rein in the price of prescription drugs.

    Backers of the bill, who commissioned the survey, hope the results will convince Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to sign it into law.

    The survey found that 81 percent of Maryland residents support creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to review medications that spike in price.

    The measure passed both chambers of the General Assembly on the last day of the session, 38-8 in the Senate and 96-37 in the House. Hogan has until the end of the month to sign or veto the bill, or allow it to become law without his signature.

    “Marylanders know that drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them and therefore overwhelmingly want the new Prescription Drug Affordability Board law to take effect soon,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative.

    As originally drafted, the measure would have applied to all health plans in the state. But it was amended to apply only to plans that cover local, county and state government employees.

    In addition, any recommendations that an upper payment limit be set on a high-price medication would have to be certified by the Legislative Policy Committee, a group of General Assembly leaders.

    The measure allows a years-long ramp-up period for the five-member board, to allow it to gather research and recommend other ways of reducing the sticker-shock consumers often face at the prescription counter.

    The earliest the group can forward recommendations to the Legislative Policy Committee is 2022.

    According to statnews.com, PHRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, had 11 Annapolis lobbyists under contract in 2018 and a similar-sized team this year.

    Josh White, a government relations specialist at PWRJ in Annapolis, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

    During the legislative session, the industry argued that the bill sets up an unconstitutional barrier to interstate commerce and could lead to drug shortages in Maryland.

    The drug affordability panel will be appointed by the governor, Senate president and speaker of the House.

    The survey, by Gonzales Research, found broad support in all parts of the state and among residents of both parties.

    The question appeared worded in a way to generate a positive result:

    “The Maryland General Assembly passed legislation this year to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board in the state to help bring down the costs of prescription drugs purchased by state and local governments. Do you favor or oppose this legislation?”

    Hank Greenberg, head of Maryland AARP, said the survey “mirrors what we’ve been hearing from our members across the state, that Marylanders are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of medication.”

    The survey was in the field from April 29-May 4. Gonzales Research contacted 826 registered voters by landline and cell phone. The poll had a 3.5-point margin of error.

    During a recent appearance at a politically-influential breakfast event in New Hampshire, the first question Hogan received was about high-priced medications.

    He noted that the legislature had just approved a measure to combat drug prices, but he didn’t explicitly promise to sign it.

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    Bruce DePuyt
    Bruce DePuyt spent more than two decades on local television, including 14 years as host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the D.C. metro region. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County, as well as a reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. Bruce also is the host of the weekly The Bruce DePuyt Podcast.