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 PalloneBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with .7 billion antitrust fine | GOP steps up attack over tech bias claims | Dems ask FTC for budget wishlist | Justices punt on Google privacy settlement Dems ask FTC if it needs more money to protect privacy MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteDem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA issues proposal to limit sales of flavored e-cigs | Trump health chief gets grilling | Divisions emerge over House drug pricing bills | Dems launch investigation into short-term health plans Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Dems push Pelosi on bill allowing federal funding of abortion | Key Republican says Dems left him out of drug pricing talks | Court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood | Trump taps acting FDA chief 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 GrassleyTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' Drug prices are a matter of life and death 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.”