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Sanofi, Lilly and Novo face enquiry over high insulin prices in US

31 Jan 2019 (Last Updated January 31st, 2019 09:35)

Drug giants Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have been sent letters by US lawmakers requesting information on the increased costs of insulin in recent years and the companies’ profit from sales of these products.

Sanofi, Lilly and Novo face enquiry over high insulin prices in US
Sanofi, Lilly and Novo asked to disclose the average price of their respective insulin products for the past ten years. Credit: Novo Nordisk A/S.

Drug giants Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have been sent letters by US lawmakers requesting information on the increased costs of insulin in recent years and the companies’ profit from sales of these products.

The letters were sent by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette.

Since these companies are the leading insulin manufacturers in the US, the Democrat lawmakers requested each of them to provide documents and answers to certain questions by 13 February this year.

Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have been asked to disclose the average price of their respective insulin products for the past ten years. The lawmakers are also seeking reasons behind any price hikes.

In addition, the companies have been asked to disclose net profit they made from their insulin products each year over the last ten years, as well as changes made to the products during the period and what were the hindrances in lowering the prices and make insulin more affordable.

The companies are additionally required to provide information on any agreements signed during the past ten years, which delay, limit or prevent the availability of generic insulin.

In their letters, Pallone and DeGette wrote: “News reports have highlighted stories of diabetics who have died because they could not afford insulin.  No American should suffer because they could not afford their insulin. As one of the few manufacturers of insulin in the US, your company is well-suited to shed light on these issues and offer potential solutions.”

“No American should suffer because they could not afford their insulin. As one of the few manufacturers of insulin in the US, your company is well-suited to shed light on these issues and offer potential solutions.”

Even though insulin has been available for decades, prices have significantly increased in recent years and made accessing it difficult for many patients, the Democrats noted.

Earlier this month, the US Committee on Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings wrote to 12 major pharmaceutical companies as part of a probe into the drug pricing practices in the country.

This was followed by a hearing on 29 January, which was held by the Oversight Committee and the Senate Finance Committee inviting multiple big pharmaceutical players to discuss the skyrocketing costs of prescription medicines.

Commenting on the hearing, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said that majority of the companies declined to come, with only two agreeing for public discussions.

Grassley said: “The companies that declined said they would discuss their ideas in private, but not in public. So, we will extend the opportunity again in the future, but we will be more insistent the next time.”

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden added: “Even if it means using our power to compel the drug company CEOs to show up, they will come before this committee.”