Morgan Griffith: Insulin prices
I recently held a meeting in the Ninth District with board members of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as children who live with juvenile diabetes. They told me their stories. One of the challenges of living with juvenile diabetes is unfortunately too familiar to many, even those with other medical conditions. That problem is high costs for medicine.
According to the most recent available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 million Americans had diagnosed diabetes in 2015, including 193,000 people under the age of 20. In Virginia, 9.6% of adults were diagnosed with diabetes, slightly higher than the median 9.1% for states across the Union.
These millions of people have reason to be deeply concerned about the price of insulin injections.
Insulin is a hormone that regulates a body’s blood sugar. Diabetes affects a person’s insulin, with Type I diabetics unable to produce insulin properly and Type II diabetics unable to use it properly. For people with Type I diabetes, insulin is a necessity. For those with Type II, insulin injections are also often prescribed.
Insulin is not a new product. It was discovered in 1921 and brought to market soon afterward. Yet its costs have soared in recent years. The American Diabetes Association says that the average price nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013. A Congressional Research Service paper noted that the price of one type of insulin increased between 2001 and 2015 from $35 to $234 per vial, which is 585%.
Clearly, prices rising at such an astounding pace pose a huge burden on the people who need insulin.
I can sometimes understand why a new drug, which may have been produced after years of the research, development, trial, and approval process, could have a high price tag. It is much more difficult to comprehend why a treatment discovered in the year Warren G. Harding became president could be subject to drastic price hikes.
In past columns, I have written that the high prices of prescription drugs are a bipartisan concern, and that addressing them could be a subject for cooperation, both between Democrats and Republicans and between Congress and the Trump Administration. I believe the same goes for the costs of biological treatments like insulin.
Both the Democrat and Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, sent letters to the drug manufacturers Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk, seeking answers about why insulin prices have soared. Republican leaders also sent requests for information to three pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). I have argued that PBMs play a key role in driving up drug prices.
I serve on the committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, whose Chair, Diana DeGette (D-CO), has indicated that these requests will be part of an ongoing investigation.
I agree with Chairwoman DeGette that we should pursue an investigation and hopefully a result that leads to more affordable insulin. The American people deserve to know why such an essential medicine has proven so costly and so burdensome for the budgets of families living with diabetes.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.