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 PalloneOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism Patients, health data experts accuse Facebook of exposing personal info High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid Dem chair asks FDA for documents on powerful new opioid Trump health official says agency would never have supported family separations 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 GrassleyOn The Money: Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive | Dems question IRS on new tax forms | Warren rolls out universal child care proposal | Illinois governor signs bill for minimum wage Smaller tax refunds put GOP on defensive High stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks 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.”