US senate bill bids to bring down insulin costs to prevent insulin-rationing deaths

Jack Woodfield
Thu, 25 Jul 2019
US senate bill bids to bring down insulin costs to prevent insulin-rationing deaths
The battle to bring down the price of insulin in the US has moved forward as a bipartisan senate bill introduced this week aims to cut insulin costs by up to 75%.

Unlike in the UK where people with type 1 diabetes are prescribed insulin for free on the NHS, people in the US have to pay for the life-saving medication, either through insurance or via their own pocket.

Last year the American Medical Association (AMA) urged the government to take action over soaring insulin prices, which have nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.

Now, US senators have acted in a bid to make insulin more affordable. The Insulin Price Reduction Act bars insurers and pharmacy benefits managements (PBMs) from engaging in rebate schemes with insulin manufactures, meaning price hikes will not exceed levels in line with 2006 costs.

"For the most popular insulins, this would result in more than a 75% decrease in prices compared to what we can expect to see in 2020," said Senator Jeanne Shaheen's office in a statement. Shaheen was one of the Senators who introduced the bill, along with Senators Susan Collins, Tom Carper and Kevin Cramer.

JDRF and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) have both endorsed the bill, which was introduced following months of hearings in Congress where senators were told stories of young adults with type 1 diabetes who died having rationed their insulin to try and save money.

"For these individuals, the prices are hitting a tragic breaking point, as patients have died from diabetic ketoacidosis complications that result from rationing insulin due to its high cost," the bill summary read.

There have been stories of people buying insulin from Canada, where it is cheaper. Overall the rising cost of insulin in the US has seen the average price of a 40-day supply of insulin nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016, from $344 (£275) to $666 (£533).

"No one should suffer or die because they cannot access insulin. We are very grateful for Senators Shaheen, Collins, Carper, and Cramer for introducing this important piece of legislation, which would treat insulin like the life-saving drug that it is," said Aaron J. Kowalski, PhD, JDRF president and chief executive officer. "It's unacceptable for anyone who needs insulin to not have access."
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