Questions for Chairman Sanders |
By Grace-Marie Turner |
RealClearPolicy, May 8, 2023 |
Insulin costs will move center stage this week when top executives of three leading manufacturers of the drug will testify before Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) during a hearing on lowering insulin costs.
If the committee’s failed markup session last week is any indication, it should be a lively and likely contentious discussion. The markup session dissolved in dispute as Ranking Republican Bill Cassidy accused Sen. Sanders of abandoning “a carefully balanced, bipartisan piece of legislation we negotiated over the last several weeks.”
And making this Wednesday’s planned hearing even more dramatic will be the addition of heads of Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers (PBMs) who are locked in a battle with pharmaceutical companies over cost issues.
Yes. Expect fireworks.
We have a few questions for the chairman…
- What about the draconian price controls on prescription drugs that Congress enacted just this last August through the so-called Inflation Reduction Act? Does Sanders think those won’t be enough?
- Will the HELP committee try to legislate lower prices without looking at the underlying reasons and built-in incentives for the high costs?
- Do political leaders care that they are stifling innovation on new treatments and cures?
It is not an exaggeration to say that insulin is the most innovated drug on the market today.
Every decade since it was discovered a century ago has seen major advancements: Insulin was the first human protein to be chemically synthesized in 1963. The world’s first insulin preparation identical to human insulin was launched in 1982, followed by insulin pumps, disposable insulin syringes, ultra-rapid and ultra-long acting insulins, and more. Decades of research give people with diabetes a variety of formulas and delivery methods to fit their individual needs.
Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk are the major manufacturers of insulin today and are expected to testify before Sen. Sanders on Wednesday.
They can and should tout the 70% – 80% reductions in insulin prices they recently announced. Let’s hope they also talk about the vital importance of continued investments in research to find not just better treatments, but cures. More price controls and government interventions would be a major barrier to that progress.