Courtesy of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative
Courtesy of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative

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Maryland leadership announced the appointment of four people to a board aimed at assessing prescription drug prices, but there’s no money to hire staff, obtain resources and conduct other work.

“It’s important to fund this,” Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21) of College Park said Monday. “People are hurting. This affects everyone and needs to be funded. [Gov. Larry Hogan] needs to make it a priority.”

Hogan remains a key figure because he hasn’t released $750,000 the legislature approved this year to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, the first board in the nation that seeks to decrease prices on drugs.

However, the governor’s office said it is searching for existing money in the budget for the board.

“We are working with our Health Department to stand up this board without a need for new funding,” Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said in an email Monday.

The legislation permits for the Senate president, House speaker, attorney general and the governor to appoint people to the independent five-member board. Peña-Melnyk sponsored the legislation in the House and Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) sponsored it in the Senate.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. jointly appointed Van T. Mitchell as the board chair. Mitchell, a former state delegate, also is the former secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Jones chose Eberechukwu Onukwugha, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Miller appointed George S. Malouf Jr., an ophthalmologist with an office in Camp Springs.

Attorney General Brian Frosh appointed Gerald F. Anderson, a professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management.

Hogan hasn’t announced an appointment to fill the board.

Some of the work by the board includes reviewing new brand-name prescription drugs at $30,000 or more per year; existing brand-name medications which increase by $3,000 or more annually; current generic medication that increase by 200 percent or more per year; and any prescription drug patients cannot afford and are challenges to the state’s health care system.

State officials and health care advocates say between 250,000 to 300,000 Marylanders are affected by high prescription drug prices.

Meanwhile, the legislation allows for a 26-member stakeholder council will present recommendations to the prescription board.

Some of those members, who will be appointed by Jones, Miller and Hogan, include a clinical research, a nurse, statewide advocate for seniors, a representative from a generic drug corporation and a for-profit health insurance carrier.

“Prescription drug costs have become a topic of daily conversation and concern among families across the county,” Mitchell said in a statement Thursday, Aug. 22. “I am thrilled to see Maryland is taking the lead on tackling this issue and welcome the opportunity to work toward a long-term solution that will reduce prescription drug costs for all Marylanders.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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