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Insulin Affordability: Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs Seek Answers from Industry

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Washington, DC, June 22, 2017 | comments

The co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY), have written pointed letters to three key stakeholders to seek answers and solutions to the rising price of insulin, which millions of Americans with diabetes need in order to live.
 
“Unfortunately, this is not a theoretical concern,” the two legislators noted. “We have heard personal stories from people across the diabetes community who struggle to purchase insulin due to prohibitive costs. Insulin is a life-sustaining drug for which there is no substitute. For those who need it, not taking insulin can lead to poor health outcomes, complications, and even death. However, people skip doses, fail to pay rent or buy groceries, and even resort to an insulin ‘black market’ in order to afford their insulin. No one should be forced to make these incredibly difficult choices.”
 
The underlying cost of insulin and the direct cost burden on patients with diabetes have risen dramatically in recent years. Average insulin prices have nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. Many patients are also facing high prices due to high deductibles, coinsurance and formulary exclusions. 
 
The letters have been sent to the heads of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans. These are the major trade associations for the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmacy benefit managers, and the health insurance industry, respectively. Reps. DeGette and Reed have consulted with national patient advocacy groups, as well as with diabetics and experts on diabetes in their communities, and will continue to do so.
 
“We are committed to examining the causes of high prices and developing policy solutions to make insulin more affordable for all Americans who need it,” the letters said. “However, we also appreciate the complexity of the issue and understand that many factors are driving the ongoing rise in prices.  In order to provide meaningful relief for patients and families, Congress must do more due diligence to get to the bottom of this.  That means arming ourselves with the facts and information we need to develop effective solutions.”
 
Rep. Reed added, “We know this is a complex issue and we are looking for input on how to develop the best policy solutions to make insulin more affordable. People rely on this drug and are struggling to keep up with the price increase. We have to fix this. Congress must come together to do the background work to find information and develop an effective solution to this problem.”
 
DeGette and Reed have been in touch with officials in these industries about this subject, but have received conflicting information. They invited the three industry group leaders to meet to discuss insulin prices and policy options and asked for a response by July 28.
 
The full text of the three letters is here.

A video highlighting juvenile diabetes can be found here

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