Efforts to Control Prescription Drug Pricing Harm Collaborative Work to Advance Patient Care with Health Innovations

Elyse Blazevich, President & CEO, Colorado BioScience Association

Colorado’s life sciences community and our state leaders share an unwavering commitment to improving patient lives and making sure Colorado remains Colorado—where quality of life and livelihood are intertwined. We all agree, patients need access to effective, affordable medicines.

However, government price mandates are not the solution.     

The state’s efforts to place government price controls on prescription medicines risk harming patients with reduced access to needed medicines. They also send mixed signals to Colorado’s health innovators, who dedicate their careers to saving and changing lives with their discoveries.

I lead Colorado BioScience Association to build a collaborative environment for the innovation of life-saving discoveries. I also co-founded a medical device company to save patients whose airways can fail during unplanned extubations.

Colorado’s health trailblazers are developing promising cancer drugs, treatments for devastating childhood illnesses, and discoveries that lessen the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Our ecosystem supports Colorado’s economy with 38,000 direct jobs.      

Recently, Colorado became the first state to establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB), to set price limits on “the highest cost prescription drugs.” This move threatens breakthroughs for patients and our momentum as a world-class health innovation ecosystem.   

The PDAB’s process lacked transparency and consistency, and board members disregarded patient feedback, prompting vocal opposition from CBSA and patient groups. Colorado mom and cystic fibrosis (CF) patient Sabrina Walker shared her life-changing experience with Trikafta, a drug selected for state review, during a CBS News interview. Previously, she spent weeks at a time in the hospital. Now, she hikes regularly and works full time. She fears a “ripple effect” from price controls, limiting investment in rare disease treatments and ultimately restricting access to medicines for conditions like CF.

Amber Freed, whose son Maxwell lives with a rare disease, also highlighted her fears about limited access to the single, life-saving drug he relies on. She emphasized the importance of considering the intersection of cost, innovation, and access.

As a Colorado native and entrepreneur who understands the challenges of bringing solutions for unmet medical needs to patients, I share Sabrina and Amber’s concerns.  Pushing fast-paced, unprecedented change in a complex healthcare system that has been broken for decades risks serious unintended consequences for patients, our state, and the rest of our country, which is now looking to follow Colorado’s lead on drug pricing. 

I’m also disturbed by false, unfair judgements mistrusting the motives of our community’s dedicated professionals. If I have learned anything about the people developing and manufacturing devices and medicines, it is this—we care deeply about patients.

We devote our careers to preventing and curing diseases, not to turning a big profit. We are committed to helping patients access therapies and offer programs to help reduce out-of-pocket costs for medicines through coupons, discounts, and co-pay assistance.

Passion and personal experience drive us. Growing up with a parent suffering from a debilitating chronic illness showed me the transformative impact of leading-edge treatments. Vital medications saved my mom’s life. Now, they help her manage symptoms and enjoy building memories with family, including my young girls.

Prices of the medicines our loved ones need reflect years of research, development, and clinical trials. Because it takes 10-12 years to design, develop and secure approval of a single medication, one successful drug costs manufacturers up to $2.6 billion to bring to market. Health innovation requires significant capital to beat the odds and bring new medicines to patients. 

Colorado’s PDAB and new federal price setting under the Inflation Reduction Act create regulatory uncertainty, making it harder for Colorado companies to raise capital. Mandates will reduce the amount of free cash available to reinvest in developing new medicines. And federal price controls are expected to decrease biopharmaceutical-supported output in Colorado by $935 million on the low end.  

Most people don’t realize that government price controls on medicines may not lower their monthly pharmacy bills, due to a bloated system that includes wholesalers, pharmacy benefit manufacturers (PBMs), and insurance companies, each taking substantial cuts on every drug pharmacies sell.  It is prescription insurance coverage, rebates, discounts, co-pays or deductibles, and administrative fees that ultimately determine each patient’s final cost – not the drug’s list price or wholesale acquisition cost.

Patients and caregivers have made it clear. Uninterrupted access to medicines that dramatically improve quality of life matters most. Patients have also described the complexities of affordability, which look different for each of them. 

CBSA urges the PDAB to carefully consider how you use your authority. Just because you can set an upper price limit (UPL) doesn’t mean that’s the right solution for Colorado patients. A one-size-fits-all artificial upper payment limit won’t change what most patients actually pay at the pharmacy counter. We must work collaboratively on calculated solutions that simplify and transform the whole complex drug pricing supply chain. Coloradans deserve better.

About Elyse Blazevich, President & CEO, Colorado BioScience Association

Elyse Blazevich leads CBSA’s work to create co-opportunity for Colorado’s life sciences community. Together with the CBSA Board of Directors, team, partners, sponsors, and members, she strategically advances CBSA’s efforts to build a collaborative environment for health innovation.

Elyse brings deep knowledge of life sciences company needs, CBSA as an organization, and Colorado’s business community to offer continuity, connections, and a clear vision for the future of CBSA and the ecosystem it represents. Before joining CBSA, she co-founded Securisyn Medical and led the organization as COO and CFO, transitioning the company from a founder-led startup to a professionally led, commercial-stage medical device company. She remains a member of the Securisyn Medical Board of Directors.

Born and raised in Colorado, Elyse holds a B.A. in biology from Colorado College and earned her M.S. in organizational leadership from CSU Global. She is also a graduate of the Colorado BioScience Institute’s Executive Leadership program.

About Colorado BioScience Association

Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA) creates co-opportunity for the Colorado life sciences community. CBSA champions a collaborative life sciences ecosystem and advocates for a supportive business climate. From concept to commercialization, member companies and organizations drive global health innovations, products and services that improve and save lives. The association leads Capital and Growth, Education and Networking, Policy and Advocacy, and Workforce Cultivation to make its members stronger, together. Learn more: cobioscience.com

Categories: CBSA News