U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ranking Member Ron Wyden of Oregon today began a bipartisan investigation into insulin prices. The probe is part of the committee’s broader effort to examine drug pricing in the United States and rising costs for consumers and taxpayers.
The senators sent letters to leading insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi seeking information regarding recent price increases of up to 500% or more for insulin, a hormone used to treat diabetes that has been on the market for nearly one hundred years.
Grassley and Wyden requested information on the process used to determine list prices and the process used to determine net prices that result from negotiations and agreements with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and large commercial plans. The letters also request information about the cost of research and development, production and marketing and advertising, revenues and gross margins from selling insulin, as well as the companies’ funding of patient assistance programs and third-party tax-exempt organizations.
The price of Eli Lilly’s Humalog increased from $35 to $234 between 2001 and 2015, a 585% increase. The price of Novo Nordisk’s Novolog increased from $289 to $540 between 2013 and 2019, an approximately 87% increase. The price of Sanofi’s Lantus increased from $244 to $431 between 2013 and 2019, an approximately 77% increase. Medicare and Medicaid spend hundreds of millions of dollars on each of these drugs every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes. On January 29, the Finance Committee held a hearing on drug pricing and witness Kathy Sego testified that her son, worried about the financial burden that the monthly $1,700 cost of insulin was having on his parents, began rationing treatment at the sacrifice of his health.
“These hardships can lead to serious medical complications that are entirely preventable and completely unacceptable for the world’s wealthiest country,” the senators wrote. “In addition, the increased price of insulin has caused federal programs to pay more for diabetes care…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. We are concerned that the substantial increases in the price of insulin over the past several years will continue their upward drive and pose increasingly severe hardships not only on patients that require access to the drug in order to stay alive but also on the taxpayer.”
The Senate Finance Committee is tasked with oversight of Medicare and Medicaid, which are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The letter to Eli Lilly can be found HERE.
The letter to Novo Nordisk can be found HERE.
The letter to Sanofi can be found HERE.