Senate panel to probe high insulin prices
The Senate Finance Committee is demanding the three top makers of insulin answer why the price of the vital drug has risen up to 500%.
Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi on Friday for information on how they set prices for the product that has been on the market for decades. The senators' letters come ahead of a major committee hearing on drug prices next week.
The senators said that the high prices of insulin not only impact patients with diabetes but also American taxpayers.
"The increased price of insulin has caused federal programs to pay more for diabetes care," one of the letters said. "When one insulin product costs the taxpayer more than a billion dollars in one year, the American people ought to know how the company prices its product."
Grassley and Wyden wanted information on the process the companies used to determine list prices and the net prices that take into account discounts and rebates negotiated with pharmacy benefit managers and insurers. The senators also want information on the cost of research and development, production and marketing and the revenues the companies get from selling insulin.
The letters come amid a public outcry over price hikes for insulin. Eli Lilly's insulin product Humalog rose from $35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015, a 585% hike, according to a release from the committee.
Novo Nordisk's Novolog increased by 87% over a six-year period from $289 in 2013 to $540 in 2019.
Sanofi's insulin drug Lantus rose from $244 in 2013 to $431 in 2019, a 77% hike.
Insulin prices have become a focal point in the debate over high drug prices because the drug has been around since the early 1900s but has crept up in price. However, no generic version of insulin is available, in part, because insulin is a biologic product derived from human insulin, making the development of a generic more difficult.
Brand name companies have also made small tweaks to insulin products over the years to maintain patent protection.
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a major hearing on Tuesday that will feature testimony from CEOs of top pharmaceutical companies: Sanofi, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., AstraZeneca and AbbVie.
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