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DENVER, Colo. — Colorado physicians today called on the General Assembly to pass SB 175 to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. SB 175, which was approved by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services in March, could help to bring costs down by as much as 75 percent for high-cost prescription drugs.
“The time for action on the Prescription Drug Affordability Board is now, because business as usual is simply unsustainable for my patients and our fellow Coloradans,” said Dr. Kyle Leggott, a family physician practicing in Denver. “Physicians like me spend more and more time helping patients scramble to find medications that they can afford. My patients go to their pharmacy not knowing what a prescription will cost or if it will be covered by insurance. For my patients, their out-of-pocket costs can seem to suddenly and mysteriously go up, causing a prescription drug that they’ve been using for months to no longer be affordable. They are shocked and sometimes even scared, especially if a medication they need can make the difference between life and death.”
In 2020, prices for 500 prescription drugs went up on average at twice the inflation rate. The physicians said medications that patients need to enjoy a decent quality of life, manage a chronic illness and even to stay alive are becoming increasingly unaffordable. For example, heart disease is the deadliest killer in the United States, yet too many people are skipping life-saving heart medications because of cost. Strokes and lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and COPD are among the Top 5 deadliest diseases, yet patients with COPD spend $6,200 more each year in medical costs compared with other patients.
“Letting these drug companies set the prices has sent many patients with chronic illnesses into downward spirals of downward health and decline,” Dr. Kristine Hembre, a retired asthma and allergy specialist in Colorado Springs, said. “A Prescription Drug Affordability Board can set upper payment limits on the amount insurance companies, pharmacies, and drug wholesalers can negotiate and pay for these high-cost drugs. In Colorado, this would lead to millions of dollars in savings for patients that have chronic disease and are no longer able to afford and maintain control over their disease. No patient should be turned away from their pharmacy because they can’t afford the medicines they need. No patient should have to live with the fear that they’re not going to be able to afford prescription medicines.”
Because of the high costs of prescription drugs, one in 10 Coloradans don’t take their medications as prescribed. Asthma patients who rely on a more affordable rescue inhaler, albuterol, on a daily or near-daily basis should also be on a preventive steroid inhaler, the cheapest of which is still $260 a month using GoodRx. People with migraines who need effective medications with minimal side effects such as CGRP antagonists like Aimovig or Ajovy, can expect to pay no less than $600 a month using GoodRx.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Apr. 9, 2021
NOTE: The physicians above are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.