By: Carolyn Johnson
Two lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle have teamed up to ask three powerful health care industries to explain the rising cost of insulin, an essential treatment for people with diabetes.
Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by a team of biochemists and physicians who sold the patent to a university for $3. The drug was once available for less than $1 a vial, but newer forms have been introduced at ever-higher prices — and they keep climbing. A form of insulin that carried a list price of $17 a vial in 1997 cost $138 in 2016. Another form that launched two decades ago at $21 a vial rose to $255.
Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) are both parents of children with type 1 diabetes and leaders of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. They requested a meeting from the organizations that represent the drug companies that make insulin, the insurance companies that cover the drug and the pharmacy benefit managers that negotiate prices on insurers’ behalf. In letters to all three, they ask for help in untangling the complicated role each business plays in the price of insulin.