Insulin

In this April 18, 2017, file photo, a woman with Type 2 diabetes prepares to inject herself with insulin at her home in Las Vegas.

Colorado lawmakers are taking the first steps toward attempting to reign in fast-rising insulin prices in the state, a sibling to federal legislation.

House Bill 1216 passed the chamber without direct opposition Friday night, but some Republicans said the precedent of government tampering in business made them uneasy.

The legislation caps out-of-pocket costs for diabetics at $100 a month "no matter how much you use," said state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, the bill's sponsor.

The bill also requires the state Department of Law to "investigate" insulin pricing and report back to the governor, the commissioner of insurance and the legislative judiciary committees.

That might lead to further government steps to scale back insulin prices, backers hope.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette is working on the issue in Congress. This week, the Denver Democrat warned pharmaceutical companies the government would step in if things didn't change on insulin profits.

DeGette chairs of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight.

The price of insulin nearly doubled between 2012 to 2016 alone, and tripled since 2002, according to a congressional appraisal.

Some people who are insured have seen their co-pays double. Colorado legislators talked Friday night about people who rationed insulin because they can't afford enough.

"It's blood money," said Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont.

No lower priced generic versions of insulin have made it to market, and only three companies make the drug: Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

Under pressure from federal lawmakers, drugmakers are responding with initial deals to lower prices.

Insurer Cigna announced last week it would cap out-of-pocket expenses for insulin at $25.

State Rep. Mark Baisley, R-Roxborough Park, said he struggled with the idea of interfering with business, but then he talked about how he watched his son inject himself with insulin several times a day for 21 years.

Health care is a broken system and insulin-makers take advantage in a way that quashes free enterprise, squeezing out competition with their vast profits, he said.

"I think we need to step in and help those people who have a daily need to get that product at a price where it ought to be," Baisley said.

State Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, talked about her husband's long, difficult struggle with the disease.

She thanked Roberts for sponsoring the bill and "standing up to fight the ridiculously high price of insulin in this country -- a country that has the wealth, the means, the know-how and I hope the heart to do something different for diabetics, so they're not rationing this drug, so they have access to it when they need it." 

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