DENVER — Facing annual and often times double-digit percentage price increases, patients in need of prescription drugs are desperate for solutions.
Colorado legislators tried to play mediator on Wednesday with the first hearing in the House Health and Insurance Committee for the Prescription Drugs Cost Reduction bill.
If passed, HB19-1296 would require manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), insurers and even non-profits to report certain pricing information. Lawmakers, like Democratic Rep. Dominique Jackson who's one of the bill's primary sponsors, said that would help lawmakers pinpoint why drug prices are skyrocketing.
"It’s like anything else," Rep. Jackson said. "You go to the doctor and you figure out why your finger hurts. Then you fix the finger. This is basically that -- trying to figure out why the costs are shifting, why they’re changing and who’s responsible for what pieces of it. Then hopefully we can get to a place where we can fix these rising costs."
Patients with long-term illnesses testified on Wednesday in favor of the bill. They argued that people shouldn't have to choose between life-saving medications or paying their bills. One of those patients was Claudia Curry Hill who was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
Curry Hill said at one point, while she had insurance through her husband who worked for the government, the total cost for two different prescription drugs was $400. She said after he retired, prices shot up between $700 and $3,000 so she ultimately made the decision to forego the medication.
"I actually was very frightened when I decided to go off because I didn't want to completely become incapacitated and have to be in a wheelchair all the time," Curry Hill said.
The pharmaceutical industry's lobbying wing told 9NEWS on Wednesday they all for transparency, however, they don't agree with how much information they'd be required to share in the bill's current version.
"We also have to report quite a bit of sensitive and proprietary information, so we just want to ensure that the language around protecting that information from public disclosure -- or more importantly, from disclosure to competitors within the industry -- is adequate enough," said Dana Malick, the senior policy director for Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA.
Malick said she and her team will continue working with the bill's sponsors until they get it right.
Another way legislators said the bill could lower consumer costs is by requiring insurers to pass rebates directly on to patients. They say that would make the prescription drugs cheaper at pharmacy counters.
Some of the bill's opponents said that portion of the bill wouldn't reduce prices but instead shift them on to other people.
The bill passed the House Health and Insurance Committee with a 7-4 vote along party lines.
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