Today, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing with representatives of drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to discuss the sky-rocketing cost of insulin. Representatives lamented how the high price has caused some of their constituents to resort to drastic measures. Members of the committee also highlighted the important role PBMs play in securing savings in the system, while blasting Big Pharma for their price-gouging and refusal to accept responsibility for rising prices despite having sole control over setting the list price.
Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), U.S. House Energy & Commerce Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman: “Despite the fact that insulin has been around for almost 100 years, it has become outrageously expensive … It’s simply unacceptable that anyone in this country cannot access the very drug that their lives depend on, all because the price of insulin has gotten out of control.”
Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY), U.S. House Energy & Commerce Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member: “When the chair and I were discussing the hearing we thought insulin was a proper one to have. We had a [physician from Yale who] held up an insulin and said it was the same insulin from 1990s as it is today and the price has moved forward … I have two nieces with diabetes, it effects almost every family … Drug pricing is important to [President Trump] and so is to everybody – it’s uniting everyone.”
Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), U.S House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman: “Millions of Americans rely on this life saving drug and they’re directly affected by the ever-increasing prices. And people are having to make sacrifices to be able to pay for their insulin and some are even forced to [go] without it, sometimes with tragic consequences … We know that companies need to make money in order to succeed and in a normal market price would reflect what the market can bear. The problem is the market for insulin is made up of people who can’t survive without the product … It appears there is limited competition, little incentive to keep prices at a level that patients can afford … Three companies currently manufacture insulin and they are all represented at the hearing today. They not only make the drug, but they also set the list price. While most people do not end up paying this list price, uninsured patients often do and even insured patients can be affected when the list price rises and that’s exactly what’s been happening as the list price for insulin has sky-rocketed in recent years and it ripples through the entire system.”
Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), U.S House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member: “PBMs provide many important services to patients and use different tools to help control costs , while promoting health care. For example, in addition to numerous other programs, CVS Health created a Transform Diabetes Care program that use several cost-containment and clinical strategies to help produce savings … Just last week, Express Scripts announced a new patient assurance program that will ensure eligible people with diabetes participating in Express Scripts plans pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin.”
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL): “I don’t know if I have any questions at all, but I want to tell you something. In the 2018 election the number one concern of Americans: the high cost of prescription drugs. We have the names of people who have died because they couldn’t get their insulin … I don’t know how you people sleep at night … I want to tell you something, that will not stand in this Congress … And I think on both sides of the aisle, there is a commitment – and we’ve even heard the President of the United States talk about price-gouging … You need to understand that this is a commitment on the part of Congress to get drug prices, particularly lifesaving and life necessities, to get those prices under control … Just know that something is going to happen here if you don’t decide in your own interest to lower those prices so people don’t have to die.”
Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN): “Thank you to the subcommittee chairwoman for holding this hearing. It’s continuing the important work that was started last Congress in examining the impact that the rising cost of insulin has on patients struggling to afford this life saving drug. Nearly 700,000 Hoosiers have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is why I served as the vice chair of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus … We’ve always worked in a bipartisan manner in that caucus and I hope we continue in that same spirit today to find solutions.”
Representative Joe Kennedy (D-MA): “We heard testimony last week from patients that were literally rationing – putting their lives on hold or taking serious risks for themselves and their children to be able to get access to medicine that was patented and sold for a dollar.”
Representative David McKinley (R-WV): “I just talked to a fellow this morning that said he just wrote a check for $1,000 for his insulin … I was hearing all of you say it was caused by innovation … innovation is supposed to drive the price down, not up. So, I’m really troubled with it … I’m sure you were innovating back in the sixties, seventies and eighties … And it wasn’t skyrocketing like it is right now. It’s just counterintuitive.”
The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) encourages lawmakers to continue to address the out-of-control prices of prescription drugs by focusing on bipartisan, market-based solutions that increase competition and transparency to lower costs and hold Big Pharma accountable.