Patients and health care advocates are calling it a crisis affecting more than 30-million Americans: the rising price of insulin.
Amid reports of dangerous rationing of insulin by patients looking to save money, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, is calling for changes.
“That’s just not right,” Rep. Welch said of the cost of insulin in the U.S., which nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, according to the non-profit Health Care Cost Institute.
Wednesday, Welch unveiled legislation that would allow the importation of safe, more affordable insulin from Canada and other qualified countries, where drug prices are lower.
Welch said prescription costs should be an issue that unites Democrats and Republicans.
“There’s no excuse for us to impose these high prices,” Rep. Welch said.
Elia Spates Marquis of Derby, Vermont has Type 1 diabetes and said she needs at least six shots of insulin each day to regulate her blood sugar.
Spates Marquis told necn that her family now pays $2,000 a month, so she can have four different types of insulin.
“They could use that money to pay for my funeral,” Spates Marquis said of what would happen to her without the hormone. “There’s no living without it. I cannot live without it.”
Only a small handful of companies produce insulin, which keeps prices high.
The Food & Drug Administration is currently promoting more competition.
For now, Dr. Joel Schnure of the University of Vermont Medical Center said he is seeing alarming cases of insulin rationing.
“We have patients who skip on their insulin,” UVM’s medical director of endocrinology and diabetes said.
Scrimping on insulin to save cash could leave people hospitalized from high blood sugar, Schnure said.
“Or, if they try to catch up and their blood sugar goes too low, you could die and seize from low blood sugar,” Schnure said. “So it’s really critical.”
Elia Spates Marquis said she’d be glad to get her insulin from Canada, adding that she hopes for more high-level attention on prescription pricing: a life or death issue for many Americans.
“I welcome this legislation,” Spates Marquis said.
Aside from the legislation on insulin, Congressman Welch is also an original cosponsor of a separate bill that would allow for the importation of a wide range of medications.