Cure Sought for the Soaring Cost of Insulin

Cure Sought for the Soaring Cost of Insulin

Story tools

A A AResize


U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressman Elijah Cummings have asked the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the rise in the price of insulin to treat diabetes.

In a letter dated November 3 to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, Sanders, (I., Vt.) and Cummings (D., Md.) asked Lynch and Ramirez to investigate whether pharmaceutical companies are colluding to raise the price of insulin used to control blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Diabetes rates

Some 13.2 percent of African Americans suffer from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. It is not clear how many need insulin daily or several times a day to control blood sugar.

The ADA has launched an online petition calling for affordable insulin. November is diabetes month.

“The prices of insulin medications, which are used by about 6 million Americans to treat diabetes, have skyrocketed in recent years. The cost of insulin more than tripled between 2002 and 2013 from $231 to $736 per patient,” the letter charged.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders
The letter added, “three diabetes drug makers have continuously raised their prices over the years, and in numerous instances the price increases have mirrored one another precisely. In May 2014, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk each raised their prices for a vial of diabetes medication by 16.1 percent within a day each other. Six months later, the companies both raised the medication price by 11.9 percent. There have been 13 reported instances of each tandem price increases between those two companies since 2009. Eli Lilly has also on several occasions matched price increases of its insulin products with Novo Nordisk. Eli Lilly and other companies have previously been fined in Mexico for colluding on insulin pricing.”

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings 

In a statement, Novo Nordisk said it recognizes people suffering from diabetes are finding it harder to pay for their medicines. Officials of the Denmark-based company said they are actively seeking collaborations transforming the complex pricing system, creating more pricing predictability and reducing the burden of out-of-pocket costs. National Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins appears in Novo Nordisk commercials.

The American Diabetes Association is urging Congress to hold hearings so there can be a better understanding of all the factors affecting insulin costs.

The American Diabetes Association said the high cost of insulin “has forced some diabetics to ration their insulin, causing death and other complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.”