Maryland Health Group Highlighting Drug Affordability Needs

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — EpiPen users are not alone.

A new poll reveals what Maryland voters think about the rising cost of prescription drugs: That they are too expensive, and that they’re willing to make that clear to candidates on election day.

Justin Henegar has two children with severe allergies. For his family, EpiPen is a necessity.

“It’s just a fear that we live in kind of all the time, every time we leave the house,” he says.

Peace of mind is more expensive these days. The price of the life-saving auto-injector has shot up more than $500, to nearly five times its price in 2009.

“We believe prescription drugs skyrocketing prices is an emergency that needs to be dealt with,” says Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco.

His organization is behind the new poll, which also shows that 75 percent of voters worry about prescription drug prices. MCHI held a news conference about the poll this morning in Baltimore.

The group is proposing three initiatives that would require drug companies to be more transparent, notify the public about price increases and give the State’s Attorney General the power to challenge any price gouging and unfair increases.

More than 60 percent of those polled, Democrats and Republicans, support all three proposals.

Some even said they would vote against their own party to support candidates willing to lower drug prices.

“It’s unusual to see not just support across party lines but 3/4 of the voters of any party supporting an issue like this,” says Steve Raabe, President of OpinionWorks.

WJZ spoke with some city residents who say they’re not surprised by the poll, and have noticed the rising cost of prescriptions for years.

“Hepatitis C pills cost $109, $1,000 for 12 weeks,” Gilbert Myers told WJZ’s Amy Yensi. “I couldn’t afford it.”

Donald Smith says its only getting worse.

“If I didn’t work the way I worked when I was coming up, I probably wouldn’t be able to make it,” he says.

Right now, Vermont is the only state with this type of affordability law. Other states have tried and failed to pass similar measures.

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