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 PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Overnight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE (D-N.J.), chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteOvernight Energy: EPA to reconsider cost benefit analysis of air pollution rules | Interior gets new rules on free concert tickets | Dem challenges EPA for skipping hearing House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump 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 GrassleyTrump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package 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.”