DENVER (CBS4) — Help may be on the way for Coloradans who struggle with the cost of prescription drugs. A licensed pharmacist turned lawmaker is ushering three bills through the state legislature aimed at achieving lower prices through greater transparency.
“Saving people money on health care and drugs has really been my entire career,” says Representative Sonya Jaquez Lewis.
The bills would require drug companies to explain price increases of more than 10 percent, sales reps to tell the doctors who write the prescriptions the price of the drugs, and insurers to pass on to patients rebates they get from pharmaceutical companies.
“We want to open up the curtain on those discounts and we want to take 100 percent of that rebate and pass it back to the patients who use those drugs.”
Those patients include Gail DeVore. A diabetic, she says she spends $500 a month on prescriptions, “If this rebate were enacted that would bring my costs down to about $200. Having a rebate for insulin specifically, which has no generic option, would be a life saver for many, many people.”
Insurers say others will see cost increases. Amanda Massey with the Colorado Association of Health Plans says the rebates are often spread among all policyholders. Under the bill, only people who use drugs for which there’s no generic would get the rebate, “So what it will do is help that group of people but it will actually increase premiums for the rest of Colorado. We estimate that those premiums increase would be 2-3 percent for everyone.”
But Jacquez Lewis says secret rebates and price increases help no one but manufacturers, “We need to have people know what their drugs are going to cost that’s why we need drug transparency.”
The bills are still making their way through the legislature. Maybe the biggest prescription drug bill this year is a Canadian drug import bill. It has now passed the Senate and will be heard in a House committee Wednesday.