Thursday, January 16, 2020

Moving Towards More Rational Drug Pricing

The U.S. healthcare system is facing many challenges — the aging population is putting new stresses on the system, poorly designed mental health systems are unable to meet the growing need for their services, and the opioid epidemic is affecting every aspect of healthcare. Notwithstanding these issues, perhaps our biggest challenge is the dramatic escalation in the price of pharmaceuticals. Drug companies are raising prices for medications that have been on the market, in some cases for decades, and new drugs are coming to the market with prices well above their cost of production. I’m not arguing that pharmaceutical companies shouldn’t make a profit, but experts have pointed out that the majority of the cost of research and development is funded by taxpayer dollars through National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant support. So, the question is: how much profit is enough for the pharmaceutical industry and its shareholders?

The federal government has shown no inclination to pass legislation addressing this issue, but the state of Maryland has. Last year, the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board was created through legislation that passed in the General Assembly. The Board will study prescription drug pricing, and with the approval of the Legislative Policy Committee of the General Assembly, may begin to set upper price limits for drugs purchased by state, county, or local governments beginning in 2022. In December 2023, the Board will recommend whether the General Assembly should pass legislation to expand upper price controls to all prescription drugs sold in the state.

The Board held its first meeting this past Monday. Former Maryland Health Secretary, Van Mitchell, is the chair of the five-member panel, which also includes Dr. Joseph Levy, Dr. Eberechukwu Onukwugha, Dr. George Malouf, and Dr. Gerard Anderson.

I wish the Board well as they begin their deliberations.

A Disappointing Loss but a Great Season Nonetheless
Congratulations to Felicity Kirby, Oncology Nurse Coordinator, and Alyssa Bonney, Hospice Aide, who each won a pair of tickets for last week’s Ravens playoff game. Jessica Booth, Clinical Social Worker, won the Ravens themed basket courtesy of Karma Fashion Boutique.

Unfortunately, last Saturday’s game did not turn out like we hoped, but the Ravens had a great 2019 NFL season. The future is looking bright for this team and their leader, Lamar Jackson! They will learn from this fabulous season and I’m excited to see what improvements they make next year.

My deepest appreciation to all our employees and volunteers who participated by donating to the GBMC HealthCare System - GBMC, GBMC Health Partners, and Gilchrist! Because of your generosity, we collected approximately $4,000!

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