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The Aegis Opinion

Editorial: Offer experiences on how rising costs of prescription drugs affect you | COMMENTARY

Earlier this week, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman hosted a Zoom forum with the chair of the Prescription Drug Affordability Board and others interested in helping to make prescription medications more affordable to Marylanders.

While organizers said Monday’s virtual forum drew about 100 viewers, and a few raised questions of the presenters, there weren’t many stories shared.

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Glassman talked Monday about how prescription drug costs increase each year for county employees and retirees, including a average increase of 12.2 percent last year. The Republican also noted that the cost of medication is an issue that cuts across political divides, age and geographic locations.

Way back in January, Glassman had attended a similar, albeit in-person, forum in Howard County. There, an Ellicott City woman who suffers from asthma, said an inhaler she had been using for 20 years and that used to cost $20, jump to $50 with her co-pay. If not for her healthcare, it would cost $100 or more.

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The county executive said then it was a common refrain he hears in Harford County too.

“[Her story] is typical of what we hear about the annual increases each year for generic drugs ... [and how] specialty drugs ... can reach $48,000 to $50,000 a year,” Glassman said.

We know those stories are out there, now they just need to be shared with the right people.

Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board is the first of its kind in the United States. The body, chaired by former Maryland Secretary of Health Van Mitchell, is charged with reviewing the rising cost of prescription drugs and making recommendations to the Maryland General Assembly on how they can be made more affordable.

But those recommendations rely on input from those effected by the high costs of medications.

If you have a story about the high cost of prescription drugs that you wish to share, you submit input to the board online at healthcareforall.com/rxinput or on the Prescription Drug Affordability Board website at pdab.maryland.gov.

Glassman also told local residents to contact him directly via email — countyexecutive@harfordcountymd.gov — and he would share those stories with the appropriate people in Annapolis.

Larry Zarzecki, a Stevensville resident who has testified before legislative committees about his struggles to afford prescription medication to treat a neurological condition, also encouraged Harford residents to tell their stories by telling his Monday. He pays about $3,000 a month for 10 medications, and said he has already withdrawn $7,000 from his IRA so far this year to help with prescription drug costs, and he noted he will have to pay taxes on those withdrawals next year.

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“People, I challenge you, please help me, help yourselves, save a life,” Zarzecki said, encouraging people to share their stories. “It may be your friends, it may be one of your grandchildren, it may be one of your children.”

Having the Prescription Drug Affordability Board is pretty unique to Maryland, and residents who are grappling with the high costs of medication or know someone who is should take advantage of the fact they have the ability to create change simply by telling the story of their struggles. Let them know and make a difference.


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