WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of more than 290 lawmakers is throwing its support behind some of the drug industry’s least favorite proposals for bringing down the cost of insulin.

Parts of the report — released Thursday by the Congressional Diabetes Caucus — read like a laundry list of the drug industry’s worst fears: It pitches everything from legislation requiring drug companies to disclose how they set their prices to legislation that dings drug makers who can’t prove that a new version of insulin is more effective than an older one.

That effort was led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a potential contender for the powerful chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, should Democrats take over the House. But DeGette, who heads the caucus with Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), insists the report was a bipartisan effort.


“This isn’t a red or blue, Republican or Democratic issue, it’s [a] life or death issue for millions of Americans,” DeGette told STAT in a statement. “We’re excited to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to tackle this issue in the next Congress.”

Drug companies are bracing for a Democratic takeover of the House in next week’s midterm elections — particularly since that party has shown itself eager to take on the industry. Until now, congressional Republicans have shown little interest in pursuing a number of the ideas outlined in the report, many of which have been floating around Washington policy circles for years.

But a group as large and bipartisan as the Diabetes Caucus taking on hot-button drug pricing topics could mean serious trouble for insulin makers.

If DeGette takes the gavel for the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, which has an outsized influence on which pieces of health care legislation sail through Congress and which languish, it will give the Diabetes Caucus a powerful champion for their plank.


Sign up for Midterms in 30: Our special-edition newsletter on health care and the lead up to Election Day.

Please enter a valid email address.

Even if DeGette doesn’t ascend to a chairmanship, the report underscores Capitol Hill’s growing interest in the issue of high insulin prices. The Senate Committee on Aging held a hearing dedicated to the issue in May, and at a separate drug pricing hearing in August, held by the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, insulin was a central theme.

There’s a reason for that interest. The average list price for insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association. More than 30 million Americans have some form of diabetes.

The report isn’t all bad for the drug industry. Its authors also float more modest ideas, like directing the Food and Drug Administration to expedite approval of biosimilar insulins and convening a discussion group on developing a patient-centric appeals process for changes to insurance formularies.

“This country must get the skyrocketing cost of insulin under control,” DeGette said.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • My son is Type 1. I don’t understand a life saving medication that costs so much when before it was completely affordable. This is not right. Insulin life or death for diabetics. Especially Type 1. Please something must be done. The stress of having to deal with diabetes is only compounded by the stress of wondering if you can afford the medication to literally keep you alive.
    Something has to change. There is no more time for discussions.

  • I was diagnosed as type 2 last year, my weight was 125kg, my doctor wanted me to start insulin and encouraged a diet with an alarming amount of carbs, so I went to boots and bought a blood sugar tester that I used every day, and started on a Atkins type diet. I.e no carbs….. and when I say no carbs I really mean none. So lots of meats and fish, eggs etc. I also got some useful information here http://mydiabetesway.com/7-steps-to-health-and-the-big-diabetes-lie-review I gradually started loosing weight at a rate of 3kg per month and Im now 94kg, I have never taken insulin and in a few months I will be my target weight. my lifestyle can never go back to carbs, but I can have some nowerdays without my blood sugar increasing, so if I want a curry I can have a Nan bread with it but no rice chips etc. And to be honest when you cut out carbs you can eat a lot of really tasty things that help lose weight a fry up without the beans is fine, lamb chops and kebabs without the bread etc. The only downside is because of the extra fat intake I need to be doing daily cardio. I really believe doctors are offered too many incentives by drug companies and tend to love writing prescriptions instead of encouraging a positive change in our lifestyles.

    • I’m glad you’re feeling better but insulin is necessary for life. A type 1 diabetic does not make insulin, if you are type 1 your choices are injecting insulin or dying. Something has to be done so injecting insulin is an affordable choice.

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy