Bill would let patients buy cheaper insulin from other countries

A bill introduced by Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchSanders: 'I'm only grumpy most of the time' Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing MORE (D-Vt.) on Wednesday would let patients import cheaper insulin from Canada and other countries. 

“Prices for insulin have gone through the roof and are hammering diabetes patients who cannot live without this life-saving medicine yet cannot afford to pay for it," Welch said in a statement. 

Insulin, which is used to treat diabetes, can cost diabetics thousands of dollar a year in the U.S. because of the lack of generic competition, but it's often cheaper in other countries.

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The bill would legalize importation of insulin from Canada by patients, pharmacists and wholesalers for two years before expanding to other countries with safety standards similar to the U.S. 

Welch's proposal would require that the Food and Drug Administration certify and inspect all foreign exporters of insulin, and patients would still need prescriptions to buy it. 

A similar bill introduced last month by Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer MORE (D-Md.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE (I-Vt.) is more broad and would allow the importation of qualifying prescription drugs, excluding controlled substances. Welch co-sponsored that measure.

The bills comes as Congress investigates the escalating costs of prescription drugs in the U.S. 

The Senate Finance Committee will hear from seven drugmakers next week, including one insulin manufacturer, about product pricing.

The Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation last month into the three main insulin manufacturers in the U.S. over rising costs.