Durbin Highlights Successful Democratic Effort To Lower Cost Of Insulin

Durbin: After two decades of Eli Lilly’s price-gouging diabetic patients, this is major relief for millions of patients who depend on insulin to live

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke on the Senate floor about Eli Lilly’s decision to cap the out-of-pocket cost for insulin at $35 a month, which can provide major relief for more than seven million patients, including more than 200,000 Illinoisans who rely upon insulin.  While Durbin applauds this news, he slammed Eli Lilly for continuously raising the price of insulin for their own profits. 

Thanks to the leadership of Congressional Democrats, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law last year, which capped the price of insulin at $35 per month for seniors on Medicare, enabled Medicare to negotiate lower prices, and also made vaccines—like the Shingles vaccine, which cost nearly $400—entirely free for seniors.  Thanks to the bill, which did not receive a single Republican vote, no senior on Medicare will pay more than $2,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs for their medication. 

“But despite the importance of this announcement, I won’t be sending thank-you cards to the executives of this pharmaceutical company.  You see, it was a century ago when basic forms of insulin were discovered.  The Nobel Prize-winning researchers who pioneered that discovery surrendered the patent right for $1.  Why?  To prevent profiteering on this life-saving medication.  Now fast-forward almost 100 years to 1996, and Eli Lilly introduced its Humalog insulin.  They set the price of a vial at $21.  It made sense—since it only costs a few dollars to manufacture.  But in the years since, Eli Lilly prioritized profits over patients.  That same vial of insulin that Eli Lilly first sold for $21 was now being sold for $300.  Eli Lilly raised the price more than 30 separate times… The company’s profit taking on this life-or-death drug has had deadly consequences.  More than one million Americans report having to ration or cut back doses of insulin, which is an extremely dangerous gamble,” said Durbin. 

During his speech, Durbin highlighted the story of his constituent named Phil, an Illinoisan from Palos Park, who had to cut back on doses of his life-saving insulin because of the skyrocketing price.  Phil wrote to Durbin that he was “anxiously awaiting lower prescription prices.”

Durbin continued, “Well, Phil, here’s the good news: You don’t have to wait any longer, because last year, Democrats lowered the cost of prescription drugs.  Why didn’t I say the Senate lowered the cost? Because not a single Republican would vote for it, not one.  We enacted a new penalty to stop Big Pharma’s outrageous price hikes… Clearly, our legislation put Big Pharma on notice.  It let them know that their days of price gouging are numbered.” 

Durbin went on to slam recent efforts by Republicans to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act and raise drug prices.  He urged his Republican colleagues to instead work with Democrats and extend the $35 insulin cap to all diabetic patients in America.  

Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Durbin chairs, reported out five bipartisan bills to address patent abuses and anti-competitive tactics that prevent generic drugs from coming to market.  Durbin urged the Senate to pass these bills immediately.  Durbin also urged his colleagues to pass his Drug-price Transparency for Competition (DTC) Actlegislation he has previously introduced with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that would require price disclosures on advertisements for prescription drugs, in order to empower patients and reduce spending on over-priced medications. 

Durbin concluded, “I’m glad we capped the price of insulin.  There’s a lot more to do.  I hope the Republicans will join us as more people across America celebrate the affordability of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.