Health Committee Dems Advance Bill to Lower Rx Drug Costs

DENVER– The House Health and Insurance Committee today passed legislation sponsored by Representatives Yardira Caraveo, a physician, and Chris Kennedy to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The committee also passed HB21-1307, sponsored by Representative Dylan Roberts, to ensure all Coloradans who need it have access to affordable insulin. 

“Colorado Democrats have made reducing the cost of health care and prescription drugs a top priority, and today we’re continuing our efforts by creating an affordability board that will save Coloradans money on the life-saving prescription drugs they need,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood. “Pharmaceutical companies are making billions in profit and spending billions more on advertising, CEO pay and stock buybacks that enrich their shareholders. At the same time, they are demanding consumers pay more and more for the same drugs they’ve used for years. It’s time to put an end to the myth that Big Pharma needs to price gouge US consumers to pay for research and development, and it’s time to make sure that every Coloradan can afford the life-saving prescription drugs they need.”

“Coloradans need us to act now to reduce the cost of prescription drugs,” said Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton, a physician. “Prescription drugs are essential tools for physicians to manage, prevent and cure diseases, but Coloradans are struggling to access them because the cost is too high when it shouldn’t even be a consideration. Even the most successful drug on the market becomes ineffective when a patient can’t afford it. The prescription drug affordability board is going to reign in the high cost of prescription drugs and ensure more patients have access to the treatments they need.”

Nearly one-in-three Coloradans struggle to afford the cost of prescription drugs. As established in SB21-175, the Prescription Drug Affordability Board will convene a panel of experts to investigate prescription drug cost increases, and set guardrails on cost increases for the most expensive prescription drugs in the state. The affordability board would set upper payment limits for prescription drugs that meet certain cost increase thresholds. These payment limits would apply to all purchasers in the state, but will only be placed on the highest cost drugs. The board will collect and evaluate the data necessary to review the affordability of prescription drugs and make policy recommendations to legislators. The board will be made up of nonpartisan, unpaid, highly qualified experts who are free from conflicts of interest. 

A recent poll from the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative found that 77% of Coloradans supported the idea of establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to analyze and act to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs — and this bill seeks to answer their call.

In addition to passing SB21-175, the committee also advanced Rep. Dylan Robert’s bill to make insulin more available and reduce its cost. 

“No one should have to go without the insulin they need to survive, but too many Coloradans can’t afford the medicine they need. In 2021, that should not happen and we need to do something about it,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “This bill builds on Colorado’s national leadership on this issue and will guarantee that regardless of insurance status, Coloradans with diabetes can get insulin at an affordable price when they need it.”

HB21-1307 would increase access to insulin by clarifying that the current $100 cap on a person’s monthly insulin supply applies regardless of the number of prescriptions a person may have. Furthermore it allows eligible consumers to access one emergency prescription insulin supply for no more than $35 per 12-month period. Finally, it creates the Insulin Affordability Program in the Division of Insurance to help eligible individuals obtain prescription insulin for $50 a month for 12 months. The findings of an investigation conducted by the Colorado Attorney General’s office released in November, 2020, found that over 40% of Coloradans using insulin rationed their medicine due to cost and that over 37% use expired insulin to stretch their supplies due to high costs. 

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