Democrats and drug prices

Among the top Democratic lawmakers working on drug price bills during the 2020 legislative session are, top row from left, Sen. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins and Rep. Dominique Jackson of Denver, with, second row from left, Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon, Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail and Rep. Kyle Mullica of Northglenn.

A key piece of the Democrats' agenda to lower drug prices got out of House Health and Insurance Committee Tuesday on a party-line vote. House Bill 1160 aims to probe the reasons behind price increases and to make sure rebates collected by industry middle men are redirected to consumers.

Democrats cite a 73% increase in Colorado’s Medicaid spending on prescription drugs over the last five years among the reasons to act.

“With multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporations making record profits, it’s time to finally hold these companies accountable for all the factors that are making prescription drugs unaffordable for far too many Coloradans,” Rep. Dominique Jackson of Aurora, one of the bill sponsors, said in a statement. “Access to life-saving medication is a right. This bill will bring badly needed transparency to the complex and secretive deals between drug manufacturers, insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers that are driving up the cost of drugs.”

She told the committee that her bill would look at what's driving up costs throughout the supply chain.

Insurers would have to give the state information about rebates they receive from drugmakers and how they are factored into premiums for the 50 most costly and most used prescription drugs in Colorado covered by their plans. The bill wouldn't make information public if it posed a trade secret.

“It’s clear that pharmaceutical corporations and drug middlemen are using rebates to get their drugs to market and to drive consumers to high-cost drugs, but these rebates aren’t being passed along to save people money,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts of Avon, the bill's House co-sponsor. “Rebates are being traded back and forth between manufacturers, drug middlemen and insurance companies behind closed doors with no public accountability. This bill will give us the data we need to make sure that rebates actually do what they are intended to do; save Coloradans money on their prescription drugs.”

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Joann Ginal of Fort Collins and Kerry Donovan of Vail.

Rep. Mark Baisley, a Republican from Roxborough Park, said he supported the intent but not the bill. Government isn't the solution, it's the problem, he said in the committee hearing.

"Costs are too high — too high throughout the industry ... but it's more caused by government interference into an industry that was standing alone and was very healthy and very cost-effective and very responsive until large organizations and especially the government got involved," he said.

"This is just more strangulation on the industry and going in the wrong direction even farther — furthering the mistakes we've been making for decades."

Ginal also is working on a bill to shine a light on drug prices by asking for justification from drug manufacturers, Senate Bill 107. The bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a party-line vote last week and awaits a hearing in the Appropriations Committee.

Jackson and Rep. Kyle Mullica of Northglenn are the House sponsors.

She also is running Senate Bill 119 to expand on legislation last year that could lead to importing cheaper drugs from Canada. Ginal's bill would include other countries, as well.

The legislation is sponsored in the House by Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Boulder County. The bill awaits a debate on the Senate floor after passing out of the Health and Human Services Committee on a party-line vote last week.

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