Durbin: Pharma Fleecing Of Insulin Must End

With focus on insulin, Durbin launches first in new series of floor speeches highlighting pharmaceutical greed

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today on the Senate floor announced a new series of awards he will be presenting regularly to the most egregious cases of pharmaceutical greed.  The first “Pharma Fleece Award” was given to Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi, the three pharmaceutical companies that manufacture insulin, which has experienced a price increase of more than 600 percent over the past two decades in the United States.  The United States represents only 15 percent of the global insulin market, yet generates nearly half of pharma’s revenue on insulin.  Lantus, a popular long-acting insulin, cost $35 when it was first introduced in 2001.  Within the past few years, the price of a Lantus vial has skyrocketed to more than $372, while that same exact drug was sold in France for $46, and $67 in Canada.

“How is it that in the richest country on Earth, patients are having to ration their insulin, or start Go-Fund-Me websites, just to survive? Insulin was a cure found in the 20th Century that patients cannot afford in the 21st Century. Pharma’s war on American patients with diabetes must come to an end,” said Durbin.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Insulin was first discovered in 1921.  The Nobel Prize-winning researchers sold the patent to the University of Toronto for just $1 because they believed that insulin should be made widely available to everyone, without worrying about the cost.  However, the price of insulin today is the subject of anti-competitive practices and constant price increases.  There are only three manufacturers in the U.S., Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi. On average, the price of insulin has doubled between 2012-2016.

In order to deter Big Pharma’s greed and price-gouging, Durbin introduced the Forcing Limits on Abusive and Tumultuous Prices (FLAT) Prices Act this month. The FLAT Prices Act would reduce this FDA-granted exclusivity period for a drug whose price increases more than 10 percent in a year, or similar amounts over a multi-year period.  Drug manufacturers would be required to self-report their price spikes to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and they would have the opportunity to provide an appeal to justify such a price increase.  Failure to report such a price hike would incur additional reductions in market exclusivity.

30 million Americans are living with type I or II diabetes. Approximately 7.5 million of them rely on insulin to manage their blood sugar levels, and it is essential to their survival.