As a physician, I applauded the creation of Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board in 2021. It’s since been working to research, review, and establish more affordable costs for the most expensive prescriptions, on which patients like mine rely. But now Big Pharma is trying to gut the Board, avoid accountability, and protect their profits. Doctors are urging lawmakers not to buy into Big Pharma’s games, and to oppose Senate Bill 60.

In 2021, Governor Polis and leaders in the General Assembly took action to rein in out-of-control prescription drug costs by creating Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board. Physicians like me advocated for its creation, and a bipartisan 71 percent of Coloradans supported its creation too. We have been encouraged by the Board’s work to begin the process of conducting affordability reviews to establish more affordable costs for them when needed.

The pharmaceutical industry is now working to undermine this process at the Colorado legislature, though — putting affordable access to medications for my patients and all Coloradans at risk.

Senate Bill 60 is disguised as a “rare disease” bill, with the purported intention to protect patients with rare diseases. It would exempt drugs designated as “orphan drugs,” medications intended to treat rare conditions and which receive generous government incentives and patent protections, from the Prescription Drug Affordability Board’s purview. But patients with rare diseases are among the most harmed by out-of-control drug costs, and among those who would benefit most from more affordable access to life-saving drugs through the Board.

By creating this dangerous loophole in Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board, Senate Bill 60 would prevent the Board from reviewing the costs of hundreds of medications doctors like me commonly prescribe. Senate Bill 60 would effectively gut the Board, leaving Coloradans who rely on prescription drugs in the lurch.

This attempt is part of a national strategy pushed by pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma has used this playbook in other states that have passed prescription drug affordability boards to try to game the system and get out of having to rein in their costs.

We can’t let this happen here in Colorado.

One in three Coloradans struggles to afford the prescription medicine they need to stay healthy. More than half of Colorado patients, 53 percent, worry about how they’ll afford the medication they need to live. On average, Coloradans pay between 61 and 80 percent more for the same medications than people in other countries.

As a doctor, I’m sadly familiar with what happens when patients ration or skip their prescriptions due to the cost. Their health conditions become worse and more difficult to live with. Illnesses that were once manageable become unmanageable. Patients live in discomfort and suffering, while their risk of a health catastrophe such as stroke and heart attack increases.

That’s why physicians support Colorado’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board and oppose the efforts by Big Pharma to have it gutted. The Board is just beginning their work, and cutting their legs out from under them would be a premature decision. The Board is our state’s only tool to hold Big Pharma accountable and finally rein in out-of-control drug costs for Coloradans.

We say it all the time, but it remains true: Prescription drugs don’t work if patients can’t afford them. If Senate Bill 60 passes, patients will continue to struggle to afford their prescriptions, and their health will continue to suffer. Doctors urge the General Assembly to oppose Senate Bill 60 and put our patients ahead of Big Pharma.

Maria Chansky, MD is a family physician based in western Colorado.