WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a fatal blow to an expansive Maryland law that aimed to bar drug makers from “price gouging” consumers.
The law, which the Maryland General Assembly passed in 2017, would have prohibited generic drug manufacturers from raising prices in a manner the state deemed “unconscionable.”
It was nullified in April 2018, when an appeals court held it was unconstitutional because it regulated commerce beyond Maryland’s borders. The Supreme Court on Tuesday formally declined to hear the appeal from the state’s Democratic attorney general, Brian Frosh.
Frosh had aggressively appealed the ruling. Advocacy groups including AARP, Knowledge Ecology International, and Public Citizen joined Maryland’s effort to uphold the law.
“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court will not reinstate Maryland’s landmark anti-price gouging law,” Vincent DeMarco, a progressive public health advocate in Maryland, said in a statement.
The Association for Accessible Medicines, a trade group representing generic drug manufacturers which brought the lawsuit to overturn the law, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“Today’s decision is a victory for patients who depend on a strong national market for generic and biosimilar medicines,” Rachel Schwartz, an AAM spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Maryland’s law would have allowed one state to dictate prices in the competitive national market for generic medicines that saved patients and taxpayers $265 billion in 2017.”
Maryland lawmakers are currently pushing legislation to install a “Prescription Drug Affordability Board” statewide, a separate drug pricing initiative that would set payment levels for drugs. The bill nearly passed the Maryland General Assembly in its last session despite fierce opposition from the drug manufacturer industry.
DeMarco, who is the president of the advocacy group Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, an advocacy group that helped push the law through the state legislature, said the Tuesday decision highlighted the importance of that separate effort.