Durbin: Senate Committee Approves Study of One-Size-Fits-All Cancer Medication that Costs Patients & Taxpayers Billions

Practice sees Medicare and private health insurers wasting nearly $3 billion each year on cancer medicines that are ultimately discarded

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today that the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which he is a member, approved a comprehensive study of one-size-fits-all drug vial sizes by the Institutes of Medicine in coordination with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.  The study was approved as part of the FY2017 Labor Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill.
“Many drug companies insist on selling their drugs in one-size-fits-all vials that contain more medicine than the average patient needs.  Since most health insurance plans have a 20% co-payment on prescription drugs – patients are paying more for drugs they do not want or need.  This is a colossal and completely preventable waste of taxpayer dollars to the tune of $3 billion every year,” said Durbin.  “This study reflects a bipartisan effort in committee and I look forward to receiving the results and recommendations on federal changes that will put an end to this massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”
The New York Times recently reported that the federal Medicare program, as well as private health insurers, are wasting nearly $3 billion annually on cancer medicines that end up being discarded due to drug companies distributing expensive drugs in vials that contain more medicine than the average patient needs.  The article was based on a study published in BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, by a group of researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  Following that report, Durbin led a letter with ten other Senators calling for an investigation of the impact that selling medicine in large one-size-fits-all vials has on the federal health care system and public health – including access to medicine.
Last month, Durbin offered an amendment during an Appropriations Committee meeting that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to report to Congress how they plan to address concerns over these large vial sizes, taking into consideration patient safety and proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars. The amendment, which was strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, was ultimately voted down with an agreement from several Senators to work with Durbin on today’s language.  Following the meeting, he signed on to a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General today to conduct a study to determine the amount of waste from inappropriately sized drug vials.