Senator Collins Chaired a Hearing Today on the Skyrocketing Cost of This Lifesaving Medication That Millions of Americans Use to Treat Diabetes
Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE for b-roll of Senator Collins and Paul Grant
Washington, D.C.— “No father wants to see what would happen if you run out of insulin for your child with Type 1,” Paul Grant, a father of four who lives in New Gloucester, told the Senate Aging Committee at a hearing today. Yet this unthinkable situation came closer to becoming reality in January 2018 when Mr. Grant went to purchase insulin for his 13-year-old son and discovered that the cost of a 90-day supply of this lifesaving medication had tripled overnight to more than $900.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Aging Committee and the founder and co-chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, invited Mr. Grant to testify at today’s hearing on the reasons for insulin price increases and the impacts that these increases have on patient access.
Mr. Grant’s son, Solomon, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago. He is one of the more than 30 million Americans who have diabetes, and one of the approximately 7.4 million Americans who rely on at least one type of insulin to manage their condition. For those with Type 1 diabetes, a lack of access to insulin can be fatal. For many individuals with Type 2 diabetes, insulin is necessary to regulate blood sugar and prevent potential medical complications, including cardiovascular disease, peripheral artery disease, amputations, and blindness.
“People with diabetes who use insulin, particularly those with Type 1, need this medication every day in order to live – it is a matter of life or death. While the prescription drug market, and the insulin market specifically, is opaque to virtually everyone involved, one fact is clear: the patients are not getting the best deal,” said Senator Collins. “The rising cost of insulin presents a barrier to care for a growing number of Americans with diabetes. Far too many individuals and families are familiar with the devastating toll diabetes has on people of every age, race, and nationality. The cost of a drug that is approaching its 100th birthday should not add to that burden.”
“I remember Sol’s state in the week that he was first diagnosed, when his body first stopped producing its own insulin, and I know that I must do whatever I can to make sure that he never has to go without it,” said Mr. Grant.
“I help people build houses for a living,” Mr. Grant continued. “I am good at my job and can tell you very accurately how much it would cost you to build a new house or put an addition on your home – but I can’t tell you how much it’s going to cost from month to month to buy the insulin I need to help keep my son healthy.”
Although insulin was first discovered in 1921 and has been used in various forms to treat diabetes for nearly a century, the average list price has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. At today’s hearing, the American Diabetes Association released a report documenting its study of issues impacting insulin access and affordability.
Due to the rapidly escalating costs of insulin, some patients find themselves having to choose between running out, skipping doses, borrowing from friends, fundraising online, or going into debt to purchase this vital medication. Others seek more affordable options of insulin on the “black market” through online connections or overseas, which can end in tragedy. These circumstances raise significant public health concerns.
The Committee received testimonies for the record from T1International, Patients for Affordable Medicine, and patients from across the country sharing the depths that they have gone through to access insulin, and the anxiety they live with every day due to the rising costs. Sabrina Burbeck from Old Town, Maine, wrote, “I am a single mom on a fixed income, and I live in fear of not being able to afford the insulin my son needs to survive.” T1International shared testimony from Nicole Smith-Holton of Minnesota, who lost her 26-year old last June. She wrote, “My son died because he was trying to ration his insulin.”
Currently, three insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk, represent 99 percent of the global insulin market. The first “follow-on” insulin product was approved by FDA in 2015.
Senator Collins has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to increase the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs. In 2015, Senators Collins and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) launched the landmark bipartisan Senate investigation into the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to egregious price spikes for certain generic, off-patent drugs. They released a report on their investigation in 2016. Following their investigation, Senators Collins and McCaskill authored a bill to improve generic competition and lower the cost of prescription drugs that was signed into law as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act.
Diabetes costs the United States more than $327 billion per year, up from $245 billion in 2012.
Witnesses at today’s hearing included:
- William T. Cefalu, M.D., Chief Scientific, Medical, and Mission Officer, American Diabetes Association (ADA), Washington, D.C.
- Paul Grant, Father of Son with Type 1 Diabetes, New Gloucester, ME
- Lois Ondik, Retiree with Type 2 Diabetes, Blandon, PA
- Jeremy A. Greene, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Click HERE to read their testimonies.