Drug price reform gained rare traction in Congress this week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would significantly lower the exorbitant cost of insulin used to treat diabetes.
Patients’ insulin out-of-pocket expenditures would be capped at $35 per month under the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 232-193 against the opposition of several Republicans.
Supply costs for life-sustaining medication currently average $375 a month, however, this may cause some people who need the medication to skip doses.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NY), the chairman of the committee in charge of health policy, said during a House debate: “No one should have to restrict their insulin in order to assist decrease expenses and endangering their health and in some cases actually cost them their lives.”
In the meantime, the Senate is working on a much more comprehensive package.
Prescription drug cost reduction is a top priority for Americans heading into the November 8 congressional elections, and if the Democratic-led push succeeds, it could have far-reaching repercussions.
It’s a step toward the secretary of Health and Human Services having the ability to negotiate prescription pricing beyond insulin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at her weekly press conference on Thursday.
The U.S. insulin market has long been dominated by three companies: Sanofi SA, Eli Lilly and Co., and Novo Nordisk. Insulin, which was developed in the 1920s but whose price has steadily risen since then, is mostly controlled by this trio.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 million Americans have diabetes. Although insulin is normally not needed to regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, it can be. Type 1 diabetes affects around 1.9 million people in the United States.
According to a congressional report issued in December, Medicare could have saved more than $16.7 billion on insulin purchases from 2011 to 2017 if it had been allowed to negotiate reductions with pharma makers.
“Government drug pricing plan: part of a socialized care paradigm that leads to fewer cures,” Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers slammed the legislation as raising health insurance rates while reducing cures.