Maryland to fight pharmacist 'gag rule' on drug costs

Maryland officials are trying to eliminate a "gag rule" that prevents pharmacists from telling consumers that they can pay less for their prescription drugs.

Maryland officials are trying to eliminate a "gag rule" that prevents pharmacists from telling consumers that they can pay less for their prescription drugs. If Maryland succeeds, it would join five other states—Connecticut, Maine, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Georgia—that have banned the rule that some PBMs put in their contracts with pharmacies. "It is this problem of pharmacists being prohibited from telling people that the price is lower from out-of-pocket insurance price" says Vinny DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, which is pushing the legislation this year. DeMarco says he does not know how many drugs are affected by a PBM's gag rule, "because these documents aren't public." The issue is drawing the attention of Congress as lawmakers turn to more avenues to combat high drug prices. While Republicans have resisted Democratic proposals to address the high price of drugs, the idea of ending the gag rule for pharmacies has received support from both parties. "Sometimes, pharmacists have gag orders they can't tell the patient it is cheaper to pay cash than go through your plan. That is crazy," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in late December. "Louisiana has outlawed those, but [in] most states [they] are still allowed. There would be bipartisan support on that."