The State Knows Your Prescription Drugs Cost Too Much. Here’s How They Want To Lower Prices

Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo
Retired public school teacher Gail Orcutt, of Altoona, Iowa, holds some of the prescription drugs she takes, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in Altoona, Iowa.

Lowering prescription drug costs is a priority for lawmakers going into the new legislative session.

Colorado released a report Thursday on the primary drivers of prescription drug costs in the state.

Legislators and the governor's office said they plan to work together to increase prescription drug transparency and to import cheaper drugs from Canada, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said at a news conference on Thursday.

"We know that we can't wait on Washington to deliver relief from high prescription drug costs," Primavera said. "We have families in our state right now who are struggling."

On the same day as the press conference in Colorado, federal lawmakers did approve the Lower Drug Costs Now Act in the House. Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette had co-sponsored the legislation.

“No one in this country should have to choose between putting food on their table and paying for the cost of their medication,” DeGette said in a statement.

The bill's next stop is the Senate, where it is "highly unlikely to get through," according to NPR. President Donald Trump has already promised to veto the bill if it did somehow make it.

Spending on prescription drugs is expected to grow by 60 percent over the next eight years, she said.

Branded and specialty drug costs are growing significantly faster than inflation rates, according to the report. Data from Colorado’s Medicaid program shows prescription drug benefit costs rose 51 percent over the last six years. The state said that specialty drug costs are the main culprit behind that increase.

The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing is considering a new board to review drug affordability issues. They also want to help employers negotiate lower rates with health insurance companies.

Other goals include limiting patent protections for drug companies and encouraging better prescribing practices for doctors.

"Patent protection policies allow manufacturers to extend for a tremendous number of years, decades, in fact, protections for the highest cost drugs during which time there is no competitor that would help bring down those costs," said Kim Bimestefer of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

“It doesn’t matter where you go, who you talk to, or how they vote, skyrocketing prescription drug costs are a major concern for Coloradans," said Adam Fox, with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, in a news release Thursday. "When nearly a third of Colorado adults report skipping medications or not filling prescriptions because of the cost, our state must do more to protect the health and financial security of its residents."

Bimfester said she wants to limit direct-to-consumer advertising.

"The unfortunate part is an unprecedented amount is going into marketing, far outweighing the cost that's actually going into research and development for new therapies," she said. "Some of us, we feel when we watch a commercial maybe we could skip across a meadow and our hardest times in life if we just took that drug."