In a bid to lower the high cost of insulin for the nation’s diabetic population, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he will put bipartisan legislation to a vote on congress “very soon,” Reuters reported.
On June 22, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the insulin bill, which, if passed, will help curb how insulin is priced and how much it will cost those in need. Speaking of the proposed legislation, Schumer said in a statement, “The cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years and the Insulin Act will make this life-saving medication more affordable by capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month,” according to Reuters. “I will put this bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor very soon,” he added.
In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Sens. Shaheen and Collins said, “This legislation is the result of months of good-faith negotiations and input from lawmakers, advocates and experts,” adding, “It is paramount that Congress act swiftly, which is why we are calling on Senate leadership to bring our legislation to the floor as soon as possible.”
Sens. Shaheen and Collins have been working on a broad insulin bill for a couple of years. In March, the House of Representatives agreed on a bill to cap out-of-pocket prices or the drug at $35/month and regulate list prices for insulin manufacturers through incentives.
Three companies — Sanofi SA, Eli Lilly and Co. and Novo Nordisk — currently own and make about 90% of the insulin produced in the United States, per American Action Forum.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 130 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. About 28.7 million people have diagnosed diabetes (8.5 million are undiagnosed) and of those, around 8.4 million rely on the lifesaving drug to treat their chronic condition, per the American Diabetes Association.
As Reuters reported, the average cost that Americans pay for insulin is about $23 per month. However, one in five insured individuals pay more than $35, per a 2021 IQVIA drug price study. Capping the price of the medication will prevent patients from having to ration insulin, stretch their budgets to afford it or make difficult personal decisions to keep using the drug, according to Shaheen and Collins.
However, despite Schumer’s promise to bring the insulin act to a Senate vote quickly, getting it approved may be a tricky task this year. Including Collins, 10 Republicans will need to support the bill alongside all 50 Senate Democrats. Only 12 Republicans voted for an insulin price bill in the House in March, with some claiming to have a problem with any legislation that is deemed to be price controlling, per The Hill.
On the Democratic side and in the face of a tight re-election campaign this year, the Democratic Senator of Georgia, Raphael Warnock, is proposing his own insulin legislation which also caps insulin costs at $35 for diabetics. Additionally, Democrats are still holding out hope for a reboot of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) program or some sort of broad economic spending package that would presumably include an insulin and other drug price caps.
Previous attempts to adopt the original $1.7 trillion BBB plan were thwarted by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and the program has effectively been abandoned for months. But, according to The Hill, talk among Democrats to retool a similar bill is picking up steam.
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