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The price of EpiPens in Colorado could drop dramatically under a new bill

State Senator Dylan Roberts (second from left), Representative Javier Mabrey (center), and Representative Iman Jodeh (fourth from left) spoke to reporters about House Bill 1002 on Friday, February 3.
Lucas Brady Woods
/
KUNC
State Senator Dylan Roberts (second from left), Representative Javier Mabrey (center), and Representative Iman Jodeh (fourth from left) spoke to reporters about House Bill 1002 on Friday, February 3.

Almost 600,000 Coloradans with severe food allergies — including more 100,000 children — could see some financial relief when it comes to buying life-saving medical devices. Colorado lawmakers are trying to tackle the high prices of epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, which are used to treat acute allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

If passed, House Bill 1002 would cap the price of epinephrine auto-injectors at $60 for a two-pack. EpiPens are usually distributed in two-packs.

The bill is a response to the devices’ rising prices. Supporters of the bill say high prices have created a public health crisis by making EpiPens unaffordable for many Coloradans.

“I believe healthcare is a human right,” bill sponsor Representative Javier Mabrey said to the House Health and Insurance Committee on Friday. “The ability to pay for life-saving medication should not be a barrier to access that medication. The price-gouging here is quite, quite egregious.”

The bill’s sponsors say EpiPen’s manufacturer has increased the retail price of a two-pack from under $100 in 2006 to almost $700 in 2022. Generic versions are available, but still can cost hundreds of dollars, according to GoodRX. The sponsors say EpiPens cost only $8 to manufacture.

“People with life-threatening conditions are unable to afford their medicines due to corporate greed and their need to profit, while people are choosing between paying their rent, putting food on the table, or paying for life-saving medication,” Representative Iman Jodeh, one of the bill’s sponsors, said on Friday.

The bill aims to cap the price of EpiPens and epinephrine auto-injectors for both insured and uninsured Coloradans. It would require health insurance companies to limit co-pays for the devices at $60.

Uninsured Coloradans would be able to apply for an affordability program through the Division of Insurance that would allow them to buy a two pack of the devices at the reduced price. To qualify, they would need an epinephrine auto injector prescription and be a Colorado resident. People with Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance that covers prescription costs would not qualify.

The bill would also require manufacturers to make the devices available under the new affordability program. They would also have to reimburse pharmacies for the wholesale costs for the devices that are over the $60 retail price cap. If manufacturers don’t comply, they could face fines of $10,000 or more.

Health insurance industry representatives are concerned that the price control efforts in the bill will drive up insurance premiums overall. Representatives for the retail pharmacy industry also expressed concerns. They said pharmacies normally work directly with wholesale distributors, not with the actual manufacturers of medication, which could be a barrier to the pharmacy reimbursement program.

House Bill 1002 unanimously passed the House Health and Insurance Committee on Friday and moves to a fiscal review next. The effort to bring down epinephrine auto-injector prices is based on 2019 legislation that capped prices on insulin, a life-saving medication for people with diabetes.

I’m the Statehouse Reporter at KUNC, which means I help make sense of the latest developments at the Colorado State Capitol. I cover the legislature, the governor, and government agencies.