How Colorado is working to lower drug costs

Instead of waiting on the federal government to take action, Colorado has been exploring creative legislative approaches to lowering prescription drug costs for its residents, Kaiser Health News reported May 25. 

One bill the state has proposed, already passed by the Senate and making its way through the House, would create a prescription drug affordability board to review prices of drugs sold in the state and set payment limits. The board would be responsible for ensuring the savings are passed on to consumers, Kaiser Health News reported. 

A drug would qualify for an affordability review if its price increases by more than 10 percent per year or exceeds either $30,000 per year per person for brand-name drugs or $100 per month per person for generic drugs. Patients and consumer advocates could also nominate drugs for an affordability review.  

Under the bill, which is expected to pass, the board would be allowed to set payment limits for 12 drugs per year. 

But the Colorado BioScience Association has warned that setting payment limits could reduce funding for new pharmaceutical discoveries, Kaiser Health News reported. Hospital and pharmacy groups in the state have also opposed the bill, and the pharmaceutical industry has threatened not to sell prescription drugs facing payment limits in Colorado. 

"Creating a board of unelected bureaucrats with the authority to arbitrarily decide what medicines are worth and what medicines patients can get would be a disaster for patients," Hannah Loiacono, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's top lobbying group, told Kaiser Health News

In addition to the bill, the Colorado governor's office is launching a tool July 1 that is embedded in EHRs and allows physicians and other prescribers to see how much patients with either public or private health insurance would have to pay for a certain drug. 

Colorado is also pursuing contracts with drugmakers that would link drug prices to the effectiveness of the drugs, Kaiser Health News reported. Additionally, the state has approved importing drugs from Canada at lower costs. It estimates Canadian imports would reduce costs for 50 common drugs by 63 percent. 

State officials have estimated the combined impact of Colorado's drug-pricing measures could save state residents 20 percent to 40 percent in out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses, Kaiser Health News reported. 

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