DENVER (CBS4) – Prescription drug prices in Colorado could soon be controlled by a five person board. A bill by Senators Sonya Jacquez Lewis and Julie Gonzalez would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board.
It would start with 12 drugs the first year, and for each one, come up with a maximum purchase price. No one would pay more than that price for that drug. The lower the price, the lower the co-pay.
Mariah Leach among those supporting the bill. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis. Prescription medication means the difference between being active with her kids and being in a wheelchair.
Her disease not only takes an enormous physical toll but a financial one.
“I was recently charged a co-pay of $2,206 for two syringes of this medication which covers one month.”
Leach is among thousands of Coloradans who struggle to afford prescription medications. Their struggle is familiar to Jaquez Lewis.
“As a pharmacist, I’ve spent my entire career listening to patients talk about how they can’t afford their lifesaving prescription drugs.”
As a state lawmaker, she’s made it her mission to make those drugs more affordable. Under her bill, the board would be appointed by Gov. Jared Polis and made of people who have practiced medicine or worked in health care financing. They would meet publicly every six weeks starting this October and it would be up to them which drugs to review and what criteria to use in setting a price.
“There’s really never a good reason to have basically a government price-fixing program,” said Jennifer Churchfield with Pharmalogic.
She says the bill will result in pharmaceutical companies no longer selling certain drugs here, especially those that cost a lot and benefit a few.
“We’re worried about underserved seniors and patients with disabilities.”
Jacquez Lewis says several other states are considering similar boards, which would make it difficult for pharmaceutical companies to boycott any one state.
She says Americans should not have to pay more for prescription drugs than every other country in the world.
“They’re selling drugs to other countries for a lot lower – 50% lower, 60% lower, 75% lower. Why are Americans subsidizing the rest of the world?”
The way Mariah Leach sees it, if a drug isn’t affordable, it doesn’t matter if it’s available.
“I think about portion my family’s budget goes to my health care costs and all things children have to forego to do that.”