On Friday, April 9 supporters of a Colorado bill that would create an independent board of experts to limit prescription drug prices gathered at the state Capitol building. The rally featured health care advocates and patients sharing their stories of having dealt with high prescription drug prices.
The legislation, SB-175, introduced last month would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (or a PDAB) consisting of five non-partisan health care experts who could set upper pricing limits on exorbitantly priced prescription drugs.
Angie Vopat-Patton, a Denver nurse, spoke at the rally about their experiences with patients who have been forced to take their medicine less because of how expensive it is and how a PDAB could help ease that burden.
“No matter where I work or what my title is, it’s an inescapable reality that exorbitant drug costs often stand between my patients and their quality of life and have the potential to quite literally kill them,” Vopat-Patton said. “I’m speaking to you today as a patient advocate in support of SB-175 because every person, regardless of income or insurance coverage should have access to affordable medications.”
The rally was organized by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI), a progressive health advocacy group. CCHI released poll results that found one in three Coloradans struggle to afford their medication and 77% of Coloradans would support the creation of a PDAB.
Also, according to the CCHI, a PDAB in Colorado could bring savings of up to 75% on the most unaffordable drugs in the state.
At the rally Miriam Ordoñez Rodriguez, a CCHI Field Manager who worked specifically on the PDAB campaign, said she feels a personal connection to this cause.
“The reason I’m passionate about affordable and accessible health care is that I have seen many in my community go without it,” Ordoñez Rodriguez said. “I talk to people and I hear the same story across communities: they cannot afford their medications.”
Opponents of the bill worry that if a PDAB capped the price on a certain prescription drug, the drug manufacturers or pharmacies would pull that drug off the market. In a statement provided to The Colorado Times Recorder last month, Emily Roberts, Vice President of the Colorado BioScience Association, a group lobbying against SB-175, echoes these worries.
“This proposed bill could limit access to needed medicines for Coloradans,” Roberts said. “Pharmacies won’t carry certain drugs if they can’t get adequate reimbursement for them.”
The other states with a PDAB have not had issues with drugs being pulled from their market, and Ordoñez Rodriguez points out that other countries pay far less for the same drugs, sold by the same manufacturers.
“Other countries are paying less for the same prescription drugs from the same manufacturer than we do in the United States,” Ordoñez Rodriguez said. “And these manufacturers are not pulling their drugs in other countries. These are threats that are frankly inhumane.”
It is true that there is a significant gap in what the U.S. pays for prescription drugs compared to the rest of the world, and one of the reasons for that is because of a lack of government intervention.
“We need government action to create affordability,” Ordoñez Rodriguez said. “Because without it many of us will continue to be held hostage by prescriptions that don’t work when we can’t afford them.”
The full rally can be viewed here. SB-175 passed through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and should be debated on the Senate floor within the next two weeks.