Maryland explores state options to control pharmacy costs

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Like many states, Maryland is considering state policy options to control rising prescription costs. Tuesday, the state’s Senate Finance Committee heard from 13 invited experts about possibilities. Committee Chair, Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, opened the briefing stating that controlling prescription drug costs is “one of the biggest issues that we’ll deal with this year.” Ellen Andrews, CSG-ERC’s health policy staff was invited to describe possible federal action, what states are currently doing to control costs, options other states are considering, and especially Vermont’s first-in-the nation transparency law that passed last year.  Others on the initial panel included Steve Pearson from ICER talking about their work developing value-based prices for medications and other treatments, and Caleb Alexander from Johns Hopkins’s Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness and the Johns Hopkins-FDA Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation. Senators asked great questions, drilling deep into how transparency could help control costs, the difference between retail and final, net prices for medications, research & development spending both by companies and government, and reimportation. There was a great deal of interest in moving to a value-based pricing model to ensure fair prices that encourage innovation that can lower costs in other parts of the health system. Two relevant bills have been proposed in Maryland regarding price transparency and state authority to sue drugmakers for price gouging. Last month Maryland joined 19 other states suing generic drugmakers for price fixing.