As the end of the legislative year approaches, Coloradans are counting on our elected officials in Washington to address the escalating crisis caused by out-of-control prescription drug prices.
As state representatives from both sides of the aisle, we can attest that this is an issue with common sense solutions that bridge traditional divides like party and ideology. We have demonstrated at the state level that this issue can produce bipartisan action but also that it needs a national solution — immediately. When we visit with our constituents, whether it be seniors living on a fixed income or families with small children, the unaffordable price of prescription drugs is one of the issues we hear about most. A survey released this month found a whopping 58 million Americans report struggling to afford a prescription in the last 12 months — and that number is up four percent from January. A 2017 study found as many as half a million Coloradans didn't fill a prescription due to the price in just one year.
This crisis continues to grow worse thanks to the anti-competitive tactics and price-gouging behavior of brand name pharmaceutical companies and middlemen pharmacy benefit managers. In just the first seven months of this year alone, Big Pharma has hiked the price on more than 3,400 prescription drugs — while raking in record profits. And by employing a host of anti-competitive tactics, like patent-thicketing and evergreening, Big Pharma is able to raise prices at astronomical rates while preventing competition. A recent study found that price hikes on seven popular drugs covered by Medicare between 2017 and 2018 – which resulted in over $5 billion in increased costs – were made without any evidence that the drugs had been improved. This is simply unsustainable, and Coloradans are relying on Congress to act.
Fortunately, there are readily available remedies with broad-based bipartisan support at hand.
Colorado's members of Congress have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver real relief for Colorado patients by backing legislation that is already on the table.
The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 in the U.S. Senate and the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 in the U.S. House share a number of key elements with bipartisan support that will help hold Big Pharma accountable, mandate transparency across the entire supply chain, and lower prescription drug prices for Americans.
Among these critical measures are solutions to hold Big Pharma's feet to the fire by giving the industry skin in the game on Medicare drug costs, provide relief for seniors by capping out-of-pocket costs, keep price increases below the rate of inflation, boost transparency and encourage competition.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates these measures, when looking at the Grassley-Wyden plan, would save patients and taxpayers $130 billion.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has already voted for these measures and lent his support in his position on the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) has stated his intention to work to lower prescription drug prices on the Senate HELP Committee, but we respectfully urge him to act and to join Sen. Bennet and many of his Republican colleagues in endorsing the Grassley-Wyden package and working to get it passed on the Senate floor.
We also encourage Colorado's representatives in the House to keep fighting to advance these measures and get them passed into law before the end of the year.
As we inch closer to next year's election cycle and the political pressures that will inevitably bring, it is vital Colorado's leaders work swiftly and diligently to advance these bipartisan drug pricing reforms before the end of the year.
Colorado patients are counting on it.
Dylan Roberts, a Democrat, represents the 26th district in the Colorado House of Representatives and Matt Soper, a Republican, represents the 54th district in the Colorado House of Representatives.