House Dems launch probe of 'skyrocketing' insulin prices

House Dems launch probe of 'skyrocketing' insulin prices
© Greg Nash

House Democrats are probing the three main insulin manufacturers in the U.S. over "skyrocketing costs." 

Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi received questions about their pricing strategies from Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Overnight Energy: USDA expected to lose two-thirds of research staff in move west | EPA hails Trump's work on reducing air pollution | Agency eyes reducing inspections of nuclear reactors Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Crucial for Congress to fund life-saving diabetes research Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — White House withdraws controversial rule to eliminate drug rebates | Grassley says deal on drug prices moving 'very soon' | Appeals court declines to halt Trump abortion referral ban MORE (D-Colo.), chairwoman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Pallone and DeGette said they worry about diabetics rationing their insulin because they can't afford to buy more. 

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“When patients go without insulin—or ration their doses—there can be tragic consequences,” they said in a letter to the drug manufacturers.

"As one of the few manufacturers of insulin in the United States, your company is well-suited to shed light on these issues and offer potential solutions.” 

They're asking for a range of documents and information from the companies, including their average price for insulin products for the past 10 years, and explanations for increases; the net profits of the companies' insulin products for the past 10 years; and a list of changes made to their insulin products.

Pallone and DeGette questioned why insulin prices have increased in recent years, despite the lack of significant advances in the formula.

They say the price of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, and nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016 

They're also asking whether the companies have entered into any agreements in the last 10 years that delay, limit or prevent the availability of generic insulin on the market. 

The issue of high drug prices has the potential to prompt bipartisan action in Congress. 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business The peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff MORE (R-Iowa) said Wednesday during a hearing on drug prices that he wants to investigate spikes in insulin costs. 

“I have heard stories about people reducing their life-saving medicines, like insulin, to save money,” Grassley said.

“This is unacceptable and I intend to specifically get to the bottom of the insulin price increase.”