Testimony in Favor of SB415 for Prescription Drug Affordability

Following testimony was provided by Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Commissioner of Health, to the Finance Committee on February 15, 2017.

Good afternoon, Chair Middleton and members of the Finance Committee. I’m the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City, and I would like to tell you about my patient, a 42-year old man, who stopped taking his seizure medications. He had to choose between paying for these drugs or food for his three children. He chose his family. One day, he had a grand mal seizure. It took two hours to stop it. He never came out of a coma, and he died.

This is not just anecdote. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 1 in 4 Americans has trouble paying for their medications. They may ration their pills, and take just half of what they actually need. They may have to face the tough choice every month of choosing between their health and rent and food.

Across Maryland, we are facing an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths. This is particularly tragic because there is one medication, naloxone that can completely reverse an opioid overdose. In the last two years, in Baltimore alone, everyday people have used naloxone to save 800 lives.

Unfortunately, the price of naloxone has more than doubled, meaning that those of us on the frontlines have to make difficult decisions about to whom we distribute naloxone—and who may or may not be able to live. This makes no sense, as naloxone is a generic medication available for pennies in other countries. At a time when opioid addiction is sweeping our region, it is unconscionable that we are priced out of saving lives.

We have a right to know why these medications are suddenly increasing in price. Drugmakers talk about the importance of innovation—but many of these drugs are not new drugs. We have a right to transparent and accurate information.

I urge you to support SB 415 and SB 437, because it is unfair and inhumane to price people out of the ability to live.

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