Maryland just passed a first-of-its-kind bill that protects patients by allowing them to pursue legal action against pharmaceutical companies found significantly increasing the price of life-saving medications. This has become a huge problem in the United States, where medicine and insurance has become a for-profit business rather than a means to keep people alive.
This bill passed with flying colors because of bipartisan support of the legislation, winning 38-7 in the Senate and 137-2 in the House of Representatives. Though drug companies are typically able to donate to lawmakers' campaigns to urge them to vote against measures like this, citizens' unrest with the skyrocketing prices even for off-patent drugs seems to have overrode any tethers lawmakers might have had to affected corporations.
The bill would allow the attorney general to file a civil suit against manufacturers that charge "unconscionable" prices for off-patent or generic drugs, which is defined as an excessive increase unjustified by the cost of producing or distributing the drug. The manufacturer can be charged up to $10,000 for every infraction and the attorney general can request additional information from the companies that increased the prices to determine if price gouging occurred.
"When a drug company doubles or triples—or multiplies by 50—the price of medication, it imperils the health and finances of patients and their families, and it threatens public health," said Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. "The new law will give Maryland a necessary tool to combat unjustified and extreme prices for medicines that have long been on the market and that are essential to our health and well-being."