Bill would let patients buy cheaper insulin from other countries

A bill introduced by Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Divisions emerge over House drug price bills Trump CFO Weisselberg emerges as key person of interest for Dems 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 CummingsPelosi rejects any classified briefings on Mueller report Trump, Congress brace for Mueller findings Ex-Georgia candidate calls for probe, says more than a hundred thousand votes went 'missing' MORE (D-Md.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Biden, Sanders edge Trump in hypothetical 2020 matchups in Fox News poll O'Rourke tests whether do-it-yourself campaign can work on 2020 stage 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.