Bill would let patients buy cheaper insulin from other countries

A bill introduced by Rep. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchNational Retail Federation hosts virtual 'store tours' for lawmakers amid coronavirus Democrats roll out national plan to reopen America Democrats press USDA to create rural coronavirus task force 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 CummingsFacial recognition tools under fresh scrutiny amid police protests The sad spectacle of Trump's enablers Democrat Kweisi Mfume wins House primary in Maryland MORE (D-Md.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Puerto Rico primary In politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Biden wins Louisiana primary 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.