In this illustrated illustration, an insulin pen manufactured by Novo Nordisk is shown on March 14, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Riddle | Getty Images News | Getty Images
CEOs of the three pharmaceutical companies that control 90% of the global insulin market will testify May 10 before the Senate Health Committee on price cuts for diabetes drugs, according to committee chair Sen. said Bernie Sanders on Friday.
Those companies — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — announced in March that they would cut prices of their most widely used insulin products by 70% or more.
On Friday, Sanders called the move an important step forward that was the result of “public outrage and strong grassroots efforts.”
But the Vermont Independent added that Congress must ensure insulin, which has increased in price by more than 1,000% since 1996, is affordable.
“We must, however, make sure that those price cuts take effect in a way that results in every American getting the insulin they need at an affordable price,” Sanders said in a statement announcing the scheduled testimony of Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks. Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, and Lars Froergaard Jørgensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk.
Sanders noted that corporate versions of insulin cost at least $275 before the announced price cuts.
Eli Lilly declined to comment when asked about the scheduled hearing. A Sanofi spokesperson said the company supports efforts to reduce costs and believes other parts of the healthcare system need to do more to help patients. Novo Nordisk said its CEO looks forward to a “productive and collaborative discussion on this important issue.”
CEOs of the three major pharmacy benefits directors CVS Healthand Express Scripts Optum Rx Also testifying, according to Sanders’ office, those executives are David Joyner, president of CVS Health Pharmacy Services. Adam Kautzner, President, Express Scripts; and Heather Cianfrocco, CEO, Optum Rx
Pharmacy benefit managers are the middlemen who negotiate drug prices with manufacturers on behalf of health insurance plans. PBMs have been criticized for inflating drug prices and not giving consumers all the discounts they negotiate.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 17% of patients using insulin in 2021 had to ration the drug due to rising costs.
About 19% of insulin users with private insurance metered the drug, and 29% of uninsured insulin users did, according to HHS.
The drug companies’ decision to lower insulin prices came a month after President Joe Biden called in his State of the Union address to Congress for a cap on insulin prices at $35 per month.
The Biden Inflation Act capped people on Medicare, the government-run health coverage program primarily for seniors, but the law did not cover people with private insurance.
According to HHS, more than two million patients with diabetes who take insulin are privately insured.
The department says about 150,000 patients taking insulin will not have insurance.
On Thursday, two senators, Jane Shaheen, D-NH, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced bipartisan legislation that would require private health insurance to set prices at $35 per month for at least one of every type and dose of insulin. The bill includes other measures to reduce prices.
Types of insulin include rapid, short, intermediate, and long-acting, as well as pre-mixed. Dosage forms include vials, pens, and inhalers.