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Bill looks to make EpiPens more affordable for Coloradans

HB23-1002 would cap the cost of the life-saving medicine at $60 depending on a person's insurance situation.

DENVER — As Keri Pugh sits in her hotel room in Silverthorne preparing for a weekend of skiing, she takes out the very thing she makes sure her family always has; auto-injectors, common known by the brand name EpiPens. 

"They go everywhere with us. These are our travel ones," she said, holding up color coated containers with the initials of her two children on each pack. 

Both of her children, now aged 15 and 11, are allergic to peanuts, which is something they found out when they were infants. 

"But I think what we also need to think about is that this is a lifelong relationship with EpiPen," said Pugh. 

That lifelong relationship includes working a budget to afford the life-saving medicine, which has seen a price increase over the last several years. 

In Pugh's case, she estimates her family has spent around $15,000 dollars on EpiPens over the years, since they have to refill their stock when the auto-injectors expire. 

"And I feel like we're lucky. I imagine that decisions like this for a lot of families, especially ours when we were just starting out, it's the difference between do we go get tires for the car or do we go get EpiPens?" she said. 

A bill sponsored by three Democrats looks to cut and cap the costs of EpiPens for Coloradans.

Credit: Courtesy of Keri Pugh
Keri Pugh pictured with her family.

HB 23-1002, if passed, would go into effect right at the start of 2024.

It would create an epinephrine auto-injector affordability program to provide low-cost epinephrine auto-injectors to Coloradans not enrolled in state medicaid or federal medicare programs, have a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector, and are not enrolled in prescription drug coverage that limits the total amount of cost sharing that the enrollee is required to pay for an epinephrine auto-injector. 

It also requires a carrier that provides coverage for the auto-injector to cap the total amount a covered person is required to pay at $60 for a pack of two.

Pharmacies would also be restricted from collecting a copayment of more than $60 for a pack of two. 

The House Health and Insurance Committee unanimously passed legislation to cap the cost of life-saving epinephrine injector devices.

“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, one of the bill's sponsors in a release.  

Credit: Credit: AP

For Pugh, who supports the bill and spoke at a press conference with the bill's sponsors, she believes it could help people save money for other things. 

"Money that we could use for our retirement or saving for our kids' college, reinvesting back into our local business," she said.

The Colorado Association of Health Plans has expressed opposition towards the bill. 

"Because the bill does not address the exorbitant prices set by the drug manufacturers that create barriers for patients to access life-saving medications," Associate Director Brandon Arnold wrote via email. "Instead, the bill shifts the at-the-counter price to health insurance premiums paid by all ColoradansHealth insurance providers cannot drive down the cost of health insurance premiums when lawmakers continue to adopt additional measures that drive up costs."

9NEWS reached out to Viatris, the manufacturer for EpiPen, for comment, but has not received a response as of Friday night.


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