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Concerns about prescription affordability board misplaced

To the Editor:

At AARP Maryland, we share many of the concerns raised by Susan Peschin’s April 9 op-ed about the high price for consumers of many prescription drugs in the state. But we believe she has misplaced concerns about the Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) and is partly misrepresenting what occurred at the board’s last meeting, which I watched in its entirety.

Created two years ago by the state’s General Assembly, the PDAB’s mission is to recommend and help implement an approach to bring down costs of drugs and drug price increases in situations when they are clearly excessive. The PDAB, made up of five highly qualified experts selected by the state, has been diligently exploring how the pharmaceutical-cost problem affects Marylanders and what the right responses to that should be.

It has spent months traveling the state and more recently hosting online forums, sponsored by two nonprofit entities — AARP and the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative — to hear directly from residents about specifics of their struggles to pay for the medications they need.

The board also is hearing from experts who have presented a range of policy suggestions. At the March meeting referred to by Ms. Peschin, board members heard, for instance, from a National Academy for State Health Policy official about a successful process used by New Jersey to lower drug costs for its state-employee health plan. The same speaker also described how New York and Massachusetts have established authority for their Medicaid programs to negotiate directly with manufacturers on pharmaceutical prices.

Maryland is the first state to create a panel like the PDAB, and we believe the board should be congratulated for its thoughtful and balanced approach to date. Largely as a result of the PDAB, other states now are creating similar boards that can help bring drug prices down without harming consumers.

We are confident that the board will carefully consider a range of options and come up with a proposed policy agenda that helps consumers pay for their medications without hampering their access to those prescription drugs.

James Gutman

AARP Maryland Executive Council