DENVER — Twelve years and one diagnosis later, a Colorado man hasn't stopped advocating for affordable prescription drug costs.
"People shouldn't have to choose between putting food on the table or their health," said David Wasserman, currently in remission from Crohn's disease.
On Monday, Colorado Democrats announced a piece of legislation aimed at alleviating choices between medicine and life's other necessities.
"The painful and heartbreaking accounts of Coloradans who are forced to choose between filling prescriptions, skipping doses or paying for basic necessities are far too common," said Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, one of the bill's sponsors.
The bill would create the state's first ever Prescription Drug Affordability Board, comprised of nonpartisan experts to investigate prescription drug cost increases while establishing guardrails on prices for the state's most costly prescriptions.
"The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs is hurting families and it's hurting our economic recovery, coming out of this pandemic we must build back stronger and that means making common sense reforms to lower the costs of drugs that are eating away at the bottom line of so many hard-working Coloradans," Kennedy said.
Other bill sponsors include Sens. Julie Gonzalez and Sonya Jacquez Lewis and Rep. Yadira Caraveo.
Wasserman said the bill represents a step forward in the right direction. He said at one point, he spent thousands on Humira medications to treat his Crohn's disease.
"I had been paying $10,000 a year to get this medication. My income would basically be rent, health insurance, copay, deductible and then I'd have $80 left over," Wasserman said.
During a teleconference to announce the bill's introduction, Gov. Jared Polis highlighted the cost differences that Coloradans face.
"Take Xeljanz [for example] a common rheumatoid arthritis medication that, according to the National Academy of State Health Safety Policy, it's $76 in the U.S. and it's $17 in Canada," Polis said. "This board is going to do a great job capping the amount insurance companies, pharmacies and drug wholesalers can negotiate and pay for high cost drugs."
A bipartisan poll released by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative in January showed nearly 1 in 3 Coloradans struggle to afford necessary prescription drugs.
The bill's introduction comes simultaneous to other efforts by Colorado lawmakers aimed at tackling the rising cost of prescription medications. On Monday, a bill to expand a prescription drug importation program cleared a House committee.