Jun 5, 2023 - Health

Colorado forges new path to lower prescription drug costs

Illustration of money pouring into a prescription bottle. 

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Colorado's initiative to reduce prescription drug prices is starting to move forward after years of talk.

Driving the news: The state's Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board, led by appointed medical and pharmaceutical pros, is preparing this summer to consider consumer price caps on at least 18 high-cost drugs.

  • The state released a list of hundreds of drugs eligible for review in May — costing $30,000 per course of treatment. This week, officials will debut a dashboard outlining their priorities.
  • The payment limits for an initial batch of four to eight drugs would come in 2024, KFF Health News reports.

Why it matters: The board is the cornerstone of election pledges made by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers to lower prescription drug prices as part of a broader effort to address health care costs that includes importing drugs from Canada.

The big picture: Colorado is one of just three states that allow the government to set limits on drug costs, and it's taken the lead as efforts in Maryland and Washington move at a slower pace.

The intrigue: The process of selecting which drugs to target will prioritize certain patients over others, and not all want payment limits.

  • "Maybe one year we focus on the impact to the system, and another year we focus on out-of-pocket costs, and one year we focus on a lifesaving drug that has smaller utilization," Lila Cummings, director of the Colorado board, told KFF Health News.

The other side: Drugmakers opposed the 2021 legislation to create the board because they say the price caps will limit innovation and potentially lead pharmaceutical companies to not operate in the state.

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