Healthcare

Sanders calls for federal investigation of diabetes drug prices

Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) are calling for a federal investigation of possible price collusion between drug companies on diabetes treatments. 

{mosads}The lawmakers wrote a letter to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission calling on them to investigate whether three drug companies, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly, are colluding to raise the price of insulin for people with diabetes. 

They note that prices for the three companies’ products have often risen closely together. 

“Not only have these pharmaceutical companies raised insulin prices significantly — sometimes by double digits overnight — in many instances the prices have increased in tandem,” Sanders and Cummings wrote. 

“We are concerned that the potential coordination by these drug makers may not simply be a case of ‘shadow pricing,’ but may indicate possible collusion, and we believe this egregious behavior warrants a thorough investigation,” they added. 

Sanders made attacking high drug prices a central part of his presidential campaign, and he has kept up the pressure on drug companies since then. 

On more than one occasion, his tweeting about price hikes has sunk the stock price of a drug company.

The letter points out that several of the diabetes drugs have more than doubled in price between 2010 and 2014. 

The list price of a drug is not always the price that a patient actually pays, because of complex rules involving how much insurance covers, negotiations with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other factors. Sanofi noted in a statement that it has not raised the list price of its diabetes drug since 2014.

“In setting prices for our insulin medications, we work to balance helping patients manage their diabetes today and developing ways to improve care in the future,” Sanofi said in the statement. 

“There is strong competition in the marketplace that also factors into how we set the prices of our treatments,” the company added. “The suggestion stated in the letter is false.”

Novo Nordisk also pushed back on the letter. 

“Novo Nordisk is committed to developing innovative medicines for patients with diabetes,” the company said. “We set price for these life-saving medicines independently and then negotiate with payers and PBMs to ensure patients have access to them. We stand by our business practices and our efforts to improve the lives of patients with diabetes.”

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