Excluding Insulin From Drug Price Reform a ‘Slap in the Face,’ Advocates Say

Jerri-Lynn here. That so many people have to pay huge sums for insulin is just one of many problems with the U.S. medical care system. That the Democrats may cave on fixing this reveals so much about the party’s failure to govern effectively. What’s next: another fundraising email where Schumer et al promise to fight for affordable insulin?

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer. Originally published at Common Dreams

Hundreds of people affected by the United States’ sky-high insulin prices and more than two dozen progressive advocacy groups on Monday toldSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that it would be an “enormous mistake” to exclude insulin-related provisions from an emerging reconciliation bill.

“Excluding insulin from drug pricing reform would be a slap in the face for the millions of Americans who rely on this lifesaving medicine to manage their diabetes.”

The initially far-reaching but now heavily curtailed economic package that congressional Democrats hope to pass through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process before November’s pivotal midterms is expected to focus on lowering drug prices—the one major reform that right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) has agreed to in his negotiations with Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats—including Manchin, whose vote is indispensable in the evenly split upper chamber—reached a deal on a plan that would allow Medicare Part D to negotiate the prices of up to 20 prescription medications directly with pharmaceutical corporations, a proposal that is overwhelmingly popularwith voters across party lines.

“As Congress verges on finally putting in place a system for Medicare drug price negotiation and advancing other urgently needed reforms, we ask that you ensure people who need insulin to live are not left behind,” the coalition wrote to Schumer in a letter signed by Public Citizen, T1International, the Center for Popular Democracy, and other groups and individuals.

Legislation passed by the House and considered by the Senate last year included language that would have made all insulin products subject to Medicare price negotiation and that would have capped Medicare beneficiaries’ insulin copays at $35 per month.

Both provisions have been left out of the latest draft of the bill released by the Senate Finance Committee, however, much to the dismay of consumer advocates and people with diabetes.

“As drug pricing legislation advances through the budget reconciliation process, policymakers must, at least, include price negotiation and Medicare out-of-pocket cost provisions that have previously been uncontroversial in the caucus,” says the letter. “It would be an enormous mistake to exclude insulin price negotiation and out-of-pocket protections that previously received overwhelming support and miss this key opportunity.”

Insulin prices in the U.S.—seven times higher than those found in peer countries—are so steep that experts have accused the federal government and pharmaceutical industry of violating human rights.

More than 37 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes. The disease, which can wreak havoc on organs, eyesight, and limbs if left unmanaged, is the country’s seventh leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because just three pharmaceutical corporations control the nation’s lucrative insulin market, the century-old drug can cost a person without adequate health insurance more than $300 per vial. This unabated price gouging and the massive coverage gaps inherent to a for-profit healthcare system have left millions of people across the U.S. who rely on insulin to live with diabetes unable to afford it. Corporate profiteering is forcing many people to ration the drug or forgo it, with deadly consequences.

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  1. EB

    This is so outrageous, especially since insulin is so easy and cheaply to produce and has been for the last 35 years or so.

    1. Tom Stone

      The lesson is simple, hire the right lobbyists and you can kill as many people indirectly as you like.

  2. John

    Captive market. Producer oligopoly. It’s only natural to take full advantage of an assured cash cow. Of course, this requires you to focus only on your profit, but your economic philosophy says that only profit, and shareholders, matter. You would be shunned by your peers were you to let this pass by. ( a touch of sarcasm)

    Was it not Cain who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

  3. The Rev Kev

    Considering that fact that after a century insulin should be free, I think it time for some lateral thinking. So I did a bit of checking and found that West Virginia is suffering a diabetes epidemic. In fact, ‘Approximately 232,336 people in West Virginia, or 16.2% of the adult population, have diagnosed diabetes. An additional 45,000 people in West Virginia have diabetes but don’t know it, greatly increasing their health risk.’ So here is my idea. Go to President Manchin and get him to withhold his vote unless insulin is included in Medicare Part D’s 20 prescription medications. It wouldn’t be the first time that he reneged on a vote remember. Tell him that by doing so, he would earn the eternal gratitude of hundreds of thousands of registered West Virginian voters – as well as all their friends and family. If he did that, I would not be surprised to see people from all parties flipping their political allegiance to back Manchin for the next coupla elections. Sounds like a plan to me.

    1. anon y'mouse

      that is assuming a lot. it is assuming that Manchin gives a flying F about over 200k people in his constituency more than he cares about fossil fuel companies.

      looking at his yacht and his car and such, i wouldn’t bet on it.

      this is just another product of the eternal game of “where ya gonna go?”

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Biden has backed up a dumptruck full of carrots for Manchin. The stick is the only thing that works. Team Blue didn’t even use the threat of a stick on him.

    2. Brian Westva

      Manchin is probably the reason that insulin isn’t included in the bill. His daughter, Heather Bresch, was the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals and she was responsible for the Epipen price gouging fiasco. I don’t know where she is now but maybe she works for the insulin producers.

  4. Carla

    Senate Finance Committee Democrats

    Ron Wyden (Chair)
    Debbie Stabinow
    Maria Cantwell
    Robert Menendez
    Thomas Carper
    Benjamin Cardin
    Sherrod Brown
    Michael Bennet
    Bob Casey
    Sheldon Whitehouse
    Maggie Hassan
    Catherine Cortez Masto
    Elizabeth Warren

    From the Republican members of the committee, I never have and never will expect even the most basic humanistic impulse. But I wish there were words to adequately express the contempt I feel for these … Democrats …

    1. petal

      Carla, Hassan has been running ads on YT about her efforts to stop surprise billing, about lowering drug prices, etc. When they come on, it makes me see red. She’s a disgusting piece of work-just another pig at the trough.

      1. Carla

        Sherrod Brown is “my” senator. King of the progressive Democrats. True story: I met him at a political event in his brother’s backyard back in 2006. I had been an activist for single payer healthcare since 1999 and so when I got to Sherrod in the receiving line, I gave him a big smile and a short, passionate entreaty to not only support, but champion, single payer. He was very engaging and polite, as usual. Next in line was his wife, the columnist Connie Schultz. She narrowed her eyes and said in a low tone between clenched teeth “You people never give up, do you?” I was so surprised, I took a beat and a breath. Then I replied firmly with a dazzling smile: “No, we NEVER do.”

        1. MoB

          That’s a great story thanks for sharing it. Shows who they really are, even the “good ones”. God help me if I’m ever fooled by the squad or Bernie or Ro “Bomma” Kanna again. (Searching for a sufficient derisive nick name for that odious POS)

        2. Kouros

          One understands then, maybe, the path taken by Lenin, or the use of guillotine employed by the French…

  5. DJ

    Why not set up a not-for-profit co-op to manufacture insulin, which would then market it for the cost of production? Better than Newsom’s government-run project. And who could object? Obtain seed money from health care philanthropists.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      There are multiple organizations that are trying to set up local manufacturing of insulin. Here is an example of one:


      I am not sure how effective they are, because there is very little discussion of their results in their press releases.

  6. Eclair

    Diabetes, specifically Type 2 or adult onset, is a money machine for the insulin-manufacturing cartel. An estimated 34 million people in the US have diabetes; 90% of them have Type 2.

    The major causes of Type2 are obesity and a sedentary life-style. Over 40% of US adults are considered obese and the number has been rising steadily over the past few decades. A diet of processed foods, high in sugar (corn-based, think ADM and Cargill), salt and fat, the prevalence of junk snack foods and sugary soft drinks in convenience stores, all contribute to obesity. The usual corporate suspects (Pepsico, Nestle, Unilever, General Mills, etc., ) make billions from selling these nutrient-absent substances.

    Plus, a car-centered life style, necessitated by the development of low density neighborhoods and anemic public transportation (all political choices,) and fostered by the marketing campaigns of auto manufacturers, make a walking/bicycling life style almost impossible.

    What’s not to love about Type 2 diabetes? It decreases life expectancy, relieving the strain on Social Security, tends to affect the those in the lower socio-economic ranks, aka ‘the deplorables,’ and provides a steady income stream for the drug cartels, legal and illegal.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      The last paragraph sounds exactly like the arguments for why cigarettes are still legal. It’s atrocious.

    2. HotFlash

      There are reports and suggestions that some artificial sweeteners contribute to obesity and diabetes. Not much research has been done — who would fund it?* — but it seems reasonable that constant calls for insulin production when not required might cause some problems. Anecdata — I have a niece whose family drink from earliest childhood was diet cola. Her mom was always worried about gaining weight, money was scarce, time even scarcer, and diet pop is both cheap and fast. Well, one day she passed out at school. She was 16 at the time. Turned out she was diabetic *and* it wasn’t type 1 (prev known as juvenile diabetes, an autoimmune disease, they now think) it was type 2, that is, pancreas not producing enough insulin, and in her case, about none. I am thinking that all those years of diet soda just blew out her pancreas. There are some studies to support that but they are very narrow in scope, and who is going to fund* that kind of research?

      *national sponsors of the American Diabetic Association, corporate sponsors of the ADA; corporate partners of Diabetes Canada

      1. John Zelnicker

        HotFlash – My understanding is that Type 1 diabetics simply can’t produce any insulin at all and Type 2 diabetics are not producing enough.

        This seems consistent with Type 1 being an autoimmune disease, and because it exists from birth.

        As to artificial sweeteners, I have strong suspicions that they are indeed involved in bringing on Type 2. Most, if not all, have been linked to other various ailments including obesity and kidney or liver problems.

        1. D. Browne

          Type 1 diabetes is the result of an autoimmune reaction where the body attacks and kills the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. If new cells are transplanted the body will attack and kill them also. Insulin is required to live, period. Too much or too little you can die.

          Type 2 diabetes is the result of the body trying to stop gaining weight. It is cured by weight loss. Insulin makes it possible to have a better quality of life without weight loss. Lack of insulin will not result in death, because the body is still making insulin, usually too much which it is no longer effective.
          I’m the mother of a type 1 who became diabetic at nine as the result of a major infection who is now 38. She knows many type 1 diabetics who have died as the result of trying to ration insulin or just making it through another day. It’s a daily crap shoot, everything affects insulin demand on a daily and hourly basis and it must be constantly adjusted/dealt with while feeling like hell or being semi-conscious.

    3. Carla

      Both high blood pressure meds and statins can cause type 2 diabetes. Can I back up that statement? Well, yes I can:


      Although I have no other risk factors for heart disease or stroke, my doctor tried to put me on a statin for very mildly elevated LDL cholesterol. I said “No way, Jose.” I witnessed with my own eyes how blood pressure meds and statins turned my late husband into a diabetic, decades before the material linked above was published.

  7. Skip Intro

    Amazing to see Lucy tee up that football again, and Charlie Brown decide to ask her to turn the seam, as if it will even be there when he kicks… ah the eternal optimism of youth.

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