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Council backs Hucker resolution to control ‘outrageous’ prescription drug prices

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Council backs Hucker resolution to control
‘outrageous’ prescription drug prices
Initiative builds on 2017 State law curbing
pharmaceutical manufacturers’ exploitative  practices

ROCKVILLE, Md., Jan. 23, 2018 — The Montgomery County Council on January 23 approved a resolution introduced by Councilmember Tom Hucker that would help crack down on drug manufacturers’ exploitative pricing tactics.

“Prescription drug prices have risen more than eight times faster than the general inflation rate since 2013,” Councilmember Hucker said. “That’s outrageous.

“No Montgomery County resident should ever have to choose between buying a life-saving medicine for their families and paying their rent, mortgage, food or utility bills.”

“But for years, the Maryland has protected its citizens by reducing health care costs. The Maryland General Assembly should pass this new legislation so fewer Marylanders will have to make such a painful decision,” Councilmember Hucker stated.

“A state law enacted last year provides some relief against price gouging for generic or off-patent drugs, but more must be done,” Councilmember Hucker said.

The Council resolution supports the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative, led by the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative’s Health Care for All Coalition, a group of 1,200 religious, labor, business and health organizations around the state. The coalition cites many cases of skyrocketing drug prices.

For example, the price of albuterol, an inhaler used to treat asthma, rose from $11 to $434 in only six months, from October 2013 to April 2014. The price of doxycycline — an antibiotic prescribed to treat acne, Lyme disease and other infections — climbed more than 8,000 percent during the same period, from $20 to $1,849. 

“Some high prices may be justifiable, if pharmaceutical manufacturers are researching and developing cutting-edge treatments for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses,” Councilmember Hucker said.

“But too often, Big Pharma charges whatever it can get away with, regardless of costs,” he said. “Because the federal government lets them get away with it, it’s up to the Maryland state government to stop them. These exorbitant prices serve mostly to line the pockets of top executives and shareholders.”

In fact, Councilmember Hucker said, last year, the top 10 drug companies posted a combined profit of more than $85 billion.

The new initiative would build on the State’s 2017 law that protects against price gouging prescription drugs in several ways: 

● It would expand that law to help provide price protection against all costly prescription drugs, not just generic or off-patent drugs.

● It would allow pharmacists to inform consumers of their payment options, such as when it might be cheaper to buy a particular drug out of pocket, rather than through their insurance plan’s pharmacy benefit. Currently, some drug companies prohibit pharmacists from doing so.   

● The initiative also calls for prescription drug manufacturers to provide adequate public notice of new, expensive drugs, or large price increases of older drugs — plus publicly justify those pricing decisions.

● It also would create a Prescription Drug Cost Review Commission to establish payment rates for expensive drugs that too many Marylanders have trouble paying for.

# # # Release ID: 18-020
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926