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.
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.