Kelly pushes FDA to allow generic insulin
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The cost of insulin has been skyrocketing in recent years. But now, it’s forcing Pennsylvanians living with diabetes to make some potentially deadly decisions.
The price of insulin has spiked 600 percent since 2001, now costing Americans with Type-1 diabetes on average more than $5,700 per year.
“Some families pay upwards of $1,800 a month just for their insulin,” according to LaShawn McIver, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & Advocacy for the American Diabetes Association.“So, this is a significant problem for people with diabetes who rely in insulin to live.”
That’s the reality facing more than 7 million Americans who can’t live without it. More than 30 million Americans in all have some form of diabetes. U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is one of them. He’s pushing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cut regulations, allowing for a generic form of insulin on the market. The lack of a generic, he says, is part of the reason costs are getting out of control and unaffordable for many of his constituents.
“If you only have limited competition, two things happen: the quality doesn’t change and the price goes up,” Kelly said.
Currently, just three drug makers produce insulin, which is not eligible for generic production under FDA guidelines. The deadline to make that happen is quickly approaching, tentatively set to expire in March 2020.
“If we don’t get the authorization to go ahead and produce a generic, it goes away and that window closes forever,” said Kelly, who sent a letter last month to the FDA urging Acting Commissioner Norman E. Sharpless to consider deregulating the drug to reduce patient costs.
A 2018 survey from the American Diabetes Association found nearly one-in-four Americans take less than the prescribed dose of insulin because of those surging prices; more than one-in-five skips their medication during the week.
“We know that it happens,” McIver said, “and there are deadly consequences to that in the short and long term.”
In May, Colorado became the first state to cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $100 a month. A similar bill is currently in the Pennsylvania State Senate.
There are several ways you can save money on your insulin, according to McIver. First, she said considering asking your doctor for the cheapest brand on the market. In March, Eli Lilly, one of the three manufacturers of insulin, offered what’s known as an “authorized generic” of its drug Humalog. It’s essentially the same drug with a different name, McIver said, and costs about half as much as its brand-name counterpart. Also consider local free clinics, which may offer insulin at low or no cost.
McIver also points diabetics and caregivers to an ADA-related website, insulinhelp.org, which offers tips and advice for finding reduced-cost insulin and long-term financial and medical solutions.