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February 3, 2023

EpiPen Affordability Bill Passes Committee

DENVER, CO - The House Health and Insurance Committee today unanimously passed legislation to cap the cost of life-saving epinephrine ejector devices by a vote of 10-0.

“While corporations hike up drug prices to reach record profits, families have been left with no choice but to budget for large expenses for their life-saving medication,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “Currently, EpiPens cost Coloradans 43 times what manufacturers spend to make them. Price gouging has emptied the pockets of Colorado families for far too long, which is why we’ve introduced this bill to limit profiteering off of this life-saving medicine.”

“No Coloradan should have to worry about how they’re going to afford medication like EpiPens that can be the difference between life and death,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora. “For those of us who have an invisible disability, you constantly worry ‘is today the day I will need my life-saving medication?’ Worrying that people won’t know how to react or be able to access the medication you need. Limiting out-of-pocket costs will greatly improve access for people of color, low-income, disabled, rural, and senior communities that are both more reliant on emergency medication like EpiPens and less likely to have health insurance coverage. We must ensure that every Coloradan can access emergency medication, no matter their income or background.”

An epinephrine auto-injector is a medical device that is used to dispense epinephrine, a hormone that quickly combats life-threatening reactions including swollen airways and rapidly dropping blood pressure. It is commonly used by people with moderate to severe allergies, in addition to other medical issues, to prevent a fatal anaphylactic reaction. Epinephrine auto-injectors are commonly referred to by the trademark name “EpiPen”, which was acquired by one company in 2007. Since then, prices have increased over 660% to $690 for a 2-pack. Because Epi-pens expire a year after purchase, Colordans have been forced to spend hundreds of dollars annually for medication that can save them from potentially lethal reactions.

HB23-1002 was highlighted by the Colorado House Democrats as legislation that drives the key agenda for the 2023 Legislative Session. It creates the Epi-Pen Affordability Program, where uninsured Coloradans with a prescription can apply online through the Colorado Division of Insurance to obtain low-cost epinephrine auto-injectors. Under this bill, manufacturers would be required to post access to the program on their websites. The bill also requires insurance carriers that provide coverage for epinephrine auto-injectors to cap the out-of-pocket cost to $60 for a 2-pack. 

A report from 2021 found that racial and ethnic, rural, disabled, lower-income, and LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to be exposed to conditions, environments, and health risks that can lead to health problems. Lower-income and BIPOC communities are more likely to live in areas with poor air quality, which can cause children to develop long-term asthma issues.

With over 500,000 Coloradans experiencing severe food allergies and over 430,000 Coloradans with asthma, this bill will help nearly a million individuals and families across the state get low-cost access to the emergency medication they need.

This legislation is modeled after successful policy passed by Colorado Democrats in recent years to limit profiteering off essential medication. Senator Dylan Roberts sponsored HB21-1307, creating the Colorado Insulin Affordability Program and successfully reducing insulin prescription costs without shifting them to the marketplace or insurance policy consumers. The bill caps monthly insulin costs at $100, regardless of the number of prescriptions a person may have. Insulin is used similarly to EpiPens in regulating bodily reactions. Without insulin or EpiPens, individuals can experience dangerous and potentially fatal symptoms.

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