Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) introduced legislation that would cap the list price of insulin at no more than $20 per vial, substantially reducing the cost of the lifesaving drug for the more than 7 million people who use insulin across the United States and the 1.3 million Americans who were forced to ration insulin last year.
“There is no reason why Americans should pay the highest prices in the world for insulin – in some cases, ten times as much as people in other countries,” said Sen. Sanders. “In 1923, the inventors of insulin sold their patents for $1 to save lives, not to turn pharmaceutical executives into billionaires. Now, 100 years later, unacceptable corporate greed has caused the price of this lifesaving medication to skyrocket by over 1,000 percent since 1996. We can no longer tolerate a rigged health care system that forced 1.3 million people with diabetes to ration insulin while the three major insulin manufacturers made $21 billion dollars in profits. Now is the time for Congress to take on the greed and power of the pharmaceutical industry and substantially lower the price of insulin. In the richest country in the history of the world, no one should die because they cannot afford the medication they need.”
“As a nurse, I’ve seen too many people in our communities struggle to afford their life-saving insulin medication. People are left choosing between insulin or groceries; insulin or rent; insulin or child care. This is unacceptable,” said Congresswoman Bush. “That is why I am so proud to join Senator Sanders in introducing the Insulin for All Act, legislation that will effectively cap the price of insulin at $20 per vial. We cannot solely rely on the whims of pharmaceutical companies to set standards of patient care and determine who can afford medication. Congress must act swiftly to remove the costly burden of insulin for patients with diabetes and save lives.”
While Eli Lilly and Company, after significant public pressure, recently announced a 70 percent price cut for Humalog, the company has not yet moved to reduce the price of other insulin products. Novo Nordisk and Sanofi – which along with Eli Lilly make up 90 percent of the insulin market in the U.S. – have not made any commitment to lower their prices at all. When Eli Lilly first launched Humalog in 1996, it set the price close to $20.
Joining Sanders and Bush on the Insulin for All Act of 2023 are Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Al Green (D-Texas), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
“Big Pharma continues to rake in record profits by gouging patients on insulin prices,” said Sen. Merkley. “Unaffordable high prices are forcing patients to ration their insulin, leading to dire health consequences – heart attacks, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, foot disease and amputations, even death. It’s tragic, it’s unacceptable, and it’s time to end this rip-off. No one should have to go bankrupt just to afford the daily medication they need to stay healthy. It’s time to put people above profits, and tell the big drug companies that their days extorting Americans who need insulin to survive are over.”
“I am proud of capping insulin copays at $35 for Medicare recipients as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, but the work doesn’t stop there. Corporate profit shouldn’t dictate access to vital health care,” said Sen. Markey. “Guaranteeing affordable insulin for all won’t just lessen the burden that is the sky-high cost of health care in this country – it’ll save lives, keep people out of the emergency room, and ensure the seven million Americans who rely on insulin have access to the medicine they need.”
While researchers estimate that a vial of insulin costs just $8 to manufacture, the price of insulin has gone up by over 1,000 percent since 1996. Sanofi’s Lantus costs $292 per vial. Novo Nordisk’s Novolog is listed at $289. Eli Lilly’s Lyumjev can be purchased for $275. People with diabetes face nearly $17,000 per year in medical expenses, more than half of which is directly attributable to their diabetes, and health care for people with diabetes accounts for one in four health care dollars in the U.S.
In 2019, Sanders took a busload of people with diabetes from Michigan to Canada, where they were able to purchase the same insulin products that they bought in the U.S. for one-tenth the price. Earlier this month, Sanders sent letters calling on Sanofi and Novo Nordisk to follow Eli Lilly in reducing the price of insulin.
The Insulin for All Act of 2023 also garnered the support of more than 70 major organizations, including: T1International, The Insulin Initiative, The Diabetes Link, Mutual Aid Diabetes, Social Security Works, Public Citizen, Center for Popular Democracy, People’s Action, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical Student Association, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, National Domestic Workers Alliance, United Mine Workers of America, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Doctors for America, Indivisible, and MoveOn.