State Rep. Dylan Roberts plans to introduce bill to bring transparency to insulin prices in Colorado

Author: Ernest Luning - December 31, 2017 - Updated: January 3, 2018

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle (Photo by Wendy Griffith, courtesy Roberts campaign)State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle (Photo by Wendy Griffith, courtesy Roberts campaign)

Inspired by a Nevada law that takes effect Monday, state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, plans to introduce legislation when the Colorado General Assembly convenes next week to require transparency about insulin pricing from drug manufacturers.

“If you have Type I diabetes, you cannot live without insulin, and it’s one of the prescription drugs whose price has increased exponentially over the past several years,” Roberts told Colorado Politics.

Over the last decade, the list price of insulin has jumped by nearly 300 percent.

Roberts said his bill would require pharmaceutical companies to explain insulin price increases that top the rate of inflation, similar to an approach taken by legislation that passed the Nevada legislature last summer with bipartisan support and was signed by the state’s Republican governor.

“Prices have risen more than 45 percent over the last three years,” Roberts said. “A vial of insulin used to cost $20 to $30; now it costs $500. No justification has been given as to why they’re increasing insulin prices so much. Maybe there is a justifiable reason they need to raise their prices that much. As of right now, people are going broke because they can’t afford their insulin.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 10 percent of Coloradans have diabetes, a range of conditions that involve an inability to regulate blood sugar — sometimes requiring daily shots of insulin, a hormone that isn’t produced by people with Type I diabetes or doesn’t work as it should in people with Type II diabetes.

Two pharmaceutical trade groups sued to keep the Nevada law from taking effect, alleging that its requirements would force manufacturers to reveal trade secrets, but a federal judge refused to block its implantation.

Roberts, a deputy district attorney, was appointed to the House District 26 seat in October to fill a vacancy created when state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, resigned to run full-time for Congress.

He said one reason he’s sponsoring the legislation — it’ll be the first bill he introduces — is to honor his younger brother Murphy, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11 and died last year after suffering a fall that resulted from a diabetic seizure.

“It’s a fight that I’m happy to take on,” Roberts said. “It’s personal. There’s nothing about this bill that would have saved his life, but the disease of Type I diabetes is something I’ve lived with a long time. There’s not a lot of diseases where you need daily doses of a medicine simply to survive. This is one of them. The fact prices are going up exponentially is a huge issue for the whole country.”

The afternoon in late October when Roberts won the vacancy election, he told Colorado Politics that Murphy had been on his mind throughout the day.

“I know he would be really proud and my biggest cheerleader today. It’s sad that he’s not here to experience this with my family, but I’m going to take his memory to the statehouse now. He was the reason I got into politics in the fist place — to make life better for people like him. Now I have a platform in the state to be able to do that,” Roberts said. “I’ll be doing it for him.”

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.