Insulin Makers to Testify Before Congress about Pricing

May 10, 2023

Execs from the leading pharmaceutical makers of insulin were set to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Wednesday.

The HELP Committee is chaired by liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who said in a statement, “The United States cannot continue to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while drug companies and PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] make billions in profits. That’s what this hearing is all about.”

The CEOs from Eli Lilly and Co., Novo Nordisk and Sanofi together control 90% of the U.S. insulin market.

In March Eli Lily said it would cap the price of insulin at $35 per month for the general consuming public. That move came after the price was capped at that level for Medicare recipients with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In the weeks following Eli Lilly’s announcement, Novo Nordisk said it would cut the prices of “several pre-filled insulin pens and vials up to 75%” starting in January 2024. Two days later, Sanofi announced a 78% price cut on its “most-prescribed” insulin, Lantus.

However, uninsured people often have to pay full list prices for the diabetes treatment, an average of $900 a month.

Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, were also set to testify Wednesday. They negotiate with drugmakers for rebates and lower fees on behalf of employers and other companies, then reimburse the pharmacies for dispensed prescriptions.  

The big pharma execs and the PBMs were expected to point fingers at each other amid the debate to make insulin more affordable across the board. 

Around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the United States with diabetes use insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Sanders has introduced a bill that caps all insulin list prices at $20 per vile. He’s further working with ranking committee member Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on a bipartisan bill that would  strengthen government oversight over PBMs. 

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