A bill recently introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) would allow patients to import insulin from other countries, such as Canada. Insulin, used to treat diabetes, can cost up to thousands of dollars in the United States; in other countries it is much cheaper.
A similar bill was introduced last month by Elijah Cummings and Bernie Sanders. This bill is more broad and allows the importation of prescription drugs, but does not include controlled substances. The bill comes as the Congress investigates the increasing costs of insulin prescriptions in the U.S.
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The proposed legislation, which was introduced last Wednesday, would allow individuals to import insulin from countries such as Canada. However, patients are still required to have a prescription and all items must be inspected by the FDA.
The bill would legalize the importation of insulin by patients, pharmacists, and other wholesalers and will soon expand to other countries that have safety standards similar to those of the U.S. Welch’s proposal involves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fully inspect the foreign exporters of insulin.
Welch recognizes the high prices of insulin affecting millions of people in the U.S. who need insulin in order to survive. “Prices for insulin have gone through the roof and are hammering diabetes patients who cannot live without this life-saving medicine yet cannot afford to pay for it,” says Welch in a statement.
Insulin Usage in the U.S.
Insulin is a type of hormone that is produced in the pancreas of the body. It regulates glucose levels in the blood. Diabetes can result if there is a lack of insulin. if there is more sugar in your body than the body needs, insulin helps to store the sugar and releases it when blood sugars are low.
People who have type-1-diabetes are unable to make insulin as the beta cells in the pancreas do not work effectively. In the other case, people with type-2-diabetes are unable to respond well to insulin or are resistant to it. Therefore, these individuals need insulin injections so that the body can process glucose effectively. Individuals who have diabetes can use various different treatment methods, such as insulin derived from animals or synthetic forms of insulin to treat their disease.
According to the American Diabetes Association, millions of individuals around the world live with diabetes; the majority of them have type 2 diabetes. American Diabetes Association data reveals that about 1.25 million people living in America have type 1 diabetes. This is only increasing as people are unable to use the insulin their body makes.
Industries are working towards artificial alternatives to treat patients with diabetes that include creating an artificial pancreas to better manage their insulin production. TypeZero Technologies is currently developing an InControl system that allows patients to automatically adjust bolus insulin as needed. The company is combining data from more than 10 years of trials and clinical research to help improve the lives of people living with diabetes.
Properly and efficiently managing diabetes requires much work and can be a burden on the patient. Lack of insulin or the financial and daily life hardships created by the sacrifices made to pay for it causes many limitations for the patient as insulin is a necessity. With this bill, patients are able to buy cheaper insulin and prevent or reduce these limitations.
Extreme Insulin Price Hikes
The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the cost of insulin tripled from 2002 to 2013 accompanied by a widespread increase for human insulin and rising out-of-pocket costs for people with type-2-diabetes.
There are many factors that cause insulin to be so expensive. Many companies may be involved with a drug before it ever reaches the patient; necessary payments to each company result in another mark-up of the cost. These companies can include manufacturers, pharmacies, wholesalers, individual pharmacists, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). PBMs are able to negotiate when drugs make it to the formularies and have the most influence on the inflated list prices of insulin.
Pharmaceutical companies also spend billions of dollars on advertising. These expenses can be converted into tax deductions. The price hikes are dangerous since insulin is so expensive that people are taking less than their prescribed dose which leads to higher blood sugars. This can cause additional problems in the body, such as kidney failure, heart attacks, and even death.
The Bottom Line
Many factors contribute to the high prices of insulin which forces diabetes’ patients to look at dangerous alternative solutions, such as lowering the amount of prescribed insulin they use. This new bill would allow patients to import insulin from other countries and could potentially solve the crisis created by extreme price hikes. The bill requires that the FDA inspect all foreign exported insulin and that foreign companies comply with all safety standards.