Over-regulating drugs threatens Md. Life sciences industry

By Marty Rosendale  • The Baltimore Sun  •  January 21, 2019

One major focus for legislators during this year’s session is how to bring down the cost of health care, as everyday Marylanders struggle to afford the cost they pay at the pharmacy counter. Despite disagreements between different groups within and beyond health care, there is broad consensus that something must be done about the cost patients pay without denying Marylanders the world-class treatments available to them, many of which are made right here in Maryland.

One important component of this equation is the benefit life sciences companies bring both to patients (in our state and beyond) and to the economy. Maryland boasts more than 2,500 life sciences companies who collectively contribute nearly $20 billion toward our state’s Gross Domestic Product. Nearly 35,000 Marylanders are employed just within the biotechnology field. These companies are discovering breakthrough cures for diseases that were a death sentence in the recent past.

Innovative companies in the life sciences field and beyond flock to Maryland because it offers a highly educated, highly skilled workforce and the state fosters a spirit of welcoming innovation for businesses working to find cures to deadly diseases and improve the lives of patients. As a result, Maryland is consistently rated among the nation’s leaders in state-wide innovation and entrepreneurship and is home to more than 70 federal labs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters.

But this kind of rich life sciences community and the benefits it conveys to our state are far from a given. Onerous regulations, including drug pricing and burdensome reporting requirements, would undercut the innovative spirit that makes Maryland the life sciences leader that it is today.

The Maryland General Assembly will consider bills that would require drug companies to explain their prices and give notice of price hikes, as well as allow the attorney general to sue drug-makers for price-gouging. (Pam Wood/Baltimore Sun) Each of the last three years, the Maryland legislature has considered such measures. Thankfully, none of these measures are currently law in the state, either because they were defeated by the legislature or, as was the case in 2017, because the misguided law was deemed unconstitutional. But there is already talk of similar forthcoming legislation in the upcoming session.

As a successful entrepreneur who has brought multiple companies and health care solutions to Maryland, I know how impactful these proposed regulations could be firsthand. In an industry like life sciences, where the cost to bring new drugs to market and the chance of failure are both incredibly high, companies — particularly small businesses — are necessarily sensitive to burdensome additional costs imposed by the states.

Because of this, even the threat of onerous regulation can push businesses out of Maryland, taking their tax bases and well-paying jobs with them over the border to Virginia, Pennsylvania and beyond. Even worse, it could cause patients to lose access to life-saving treatments all-together, as companies are forced to remove their treatments from Maryland, leaving patients to scramble and cross state lines to get access to the care they need.

As our state evaluates different ways to help lessen the cost burden for patients, the Maryland legislature should avoid these kinds of misguided regulations, which would only serve to hurt patients, businesses and the economy in our state. The best way to foster innovation – and bring down the cost of care in the process – is to allow the innovative companies in our state do what they do best: create groundbreaking cures and treatments, and allow them to do it here in Maryland.

Marty Rosendale (marty@mdtechcouncil.com) is the CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, a community of more than 450 industry-leading technology firms and organizations.