Hidden camera tests reveal loopholes in Colorado law that make EpiPens more affordable

DENVER After learning that several pharmacies were not complying with a new Colorado state law making EpiPens more affordable, Denver7 Investigates conducted a hidden camera operation at several locations and brought the footage to the co-sponsor of the invoices The trial uncovered billing confusion and problems reporting pharmacies correctly across the state, leading to a delay in affordable, life-saving medication.

On Jan. 1, House Bill 1002 made epinephrine injectors, commonly known by the brand name EpiPen, available for $60 to qualifying residents. That’s considerably less than the up to $700 a two-pack can cost for those without insurance.

Jackson Pugh, a high school rugby player, needs access to EpiPens because of a life-threatening peanut allergy.

It’s still kind of nerve wracking. How to think if I eat something wrong that could be life-threatening, he said.

Pugh is one of 500,000 Coloradans who rely on adrenaline to be the first line of defense during an allergic reaction. He and his mother testified before state lawmakers last year, helping pass HB 23-1002.

Specifically, the new bill addresses “the rising costs of epinephrine auto-injectors make this life-saving drug difficult or impossible to obtain for many people, and serves to “establish an affordability program to ensure that Colorado residents have greater access to adrenaline.”

Two months after the program launched, multiple sources have come forward, telling Denver7 Investigates they couldn’t find a pharmacy that would honor the cost cut. Denver7 Investigates went undercover at several locations in the metro area to find out why the law is being followed.

We as pharmacists, and we as a company, don’t know what to do, said one site manager when asked by a Denver7 producer if he respected the $60 value.

I honestly think most places didn’t know how to handle it, said a pharmacy employee from another location.

You’re the first person to do this, so I don’t know what I’m doing yet, said a pharmacist.

Several employees and pharmacists expressed confusion to Denver7 Investigates. Some said they had no way to bill patients or process payments at a cheaper rate, while others blamed drugmakers for not honoring the new price.

The [Colorado] The Pharmacy Council just posted something right now, they don’t have a response. So right now, we’re all waiting to see what the manufacturers do, the manager said.

It says just fill it up and bring it here and it looks like it’s like at pharmacies to cancel the price, but we can’t, like we don’t get any kind of reimbursement, nothing from the government, another manager said of pharmacy, who spent more than an hour during his lunch break trying to learn more about the law. There is no indication as to what we are supposed to do other than try to contact the manufacturer.

Despite qualifying for the application and presenting it to multiple pharmacies, 70% of the locations Denver7 producers visited did not have the knowledge or ability to sell a pair of EpiPens for the discounted price. Denver7 Investigates took the hidden camera footage to Democratic state Sen. Dylan Roberts, a co-sponsor of the bills, who admitted the law is not working.

Hidden camera tests reveal loopholes in Colorado law that make EpiPens more affordable

she [the manager] he clearly understands the frustration with the lack of accountability from these big drug companies and the lack of information about how he can fix the problem, Roberts said. She is trying to do the right thing.

Senator Roberts said both he and the governor, who signed the law into law last June, hoped the law would be followed through. He told Denver7 Investigates it’s the states’ job to make sure.

The state government oversees pharmacies and pharmacists, he said. I have run this program through the Pharmacy Council and the Insurance Division.

However, some pharmacy locations visited during the hidden camera test followed the law. Pharmacists at a Safeway in Arapahoe County and a King Soopers in Denver figured out how to honor the price change, selling Denver7 Investigates two epinephrine injectors at the correct price.

We just have to make a few phone calls, but it’s not really complicated, the Safeway pharmacist said, telling a Denver7 producer that the drug is available for $60 at any Safeway location, as long as it’s in stock.

It gives me hope, Roberts said, after hearing that Denver7 was successful in some locations. I mean it’s a bright spot in a pretty tough set of videos.

Roberts concluded that the evidence from the undercover videos would help him address the problem and hold people accountable.

Now when the lobbyists come and say it’s not our fault, I can point to the video and say it is. That’s what’s happening at pharmacies across the state. You are the manufacturer, you have to obey the law and help the pharmacists do their job, he said. We can fix it. I’m sad about the two and a half months we’ve lost.

Senator Roberts tells Denver7 Investigates that he and Attorney General Phil Weiser are considering applying the $10,000 penalty to the injector manufacturers. Roberts is also pushing to improve communications from his state agencies to inform pharmacies.

Denver7 Investigates reached out to the Colorado Retail Council for comment and perspective on behalf of the pharmacies. They have not responded to our questions.

A lawsuit is currently pending by at least one manufacturer against the state of Colorado to fight the cost cutting.


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