Colorado’s insulin, EpiPen price caps could get tougher enforcement under bill progressing at state legislature

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Insulin products are displayed during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2023.

A bill that would empower Colorado state officials to enforce prescription drug and insulin price caps will get its final reading in the House on Monday.

In 2021, Colorado lawmakers created an insulin affordability program, which caps insulin prices to $100 for an entire month’s supply, regardless of the amount of insulin each individual needs. Those who are low on insulin are also eligible to receive an emergency thirty-day supply that costs less than $35.

HB24-1438 would punish prescription drug manufacturers and pharmacies who fail to comply with Colorado’s insulin affordability program by making it a “deceptive trade practice” under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.

If the bill passes as currently written, the Colorado attorney general’s office would be authorized to enforce the program, as well as the affordability program for epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, which are used to treat severe allergic reactions. 

The bill would also remove the $10,000 fine associated with failure to comply with requirements of the insulin and EpiPen affordability program, and instead introduces an open-ended punishment for bad actors. The current bill text says the fine can be increased to “the amount and frequency that is permitted under the ‘Colorado Consumer Protection Act.’”

If passed, the state board of pharmacy will distribute flyers to pharmacies about the EpiPen affordability program, which will help consumers easy access to the program’s online application and information about the cost.

Teva Pharmaceuticals, which produces epinephrine autoinjectors, is challenging the legality of the state’s affordability program in a lawsuit that is still pending. Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office appealed a federal court’s decision to let the suit continue in an April 1 filing.

Meanwhile, reporting by The Denver Post has found that some pharmacies in Colorado are refusing to honor the EpiPen price caps, creating financial burdens for people with insurance plans that aren’t regulated by the state.

The bill must still clear the state Senate in order to reach Governor Jared Polis' desk. Two weeks remain in the current legislative session.