Illinois lawmaker aims to make insulin more accessible as prices continue to skyrocket

MOLINE, Illinois -- U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) wants to make insulin more accessible again as the price of the life-saving drug skyrocketed over the past two decades.

Durbin discussed a proposed, bipartisan bill that would speed up the approval process of generic insulin that is cheaper to consumers at the Community Health Care Clinic in Moline on Monday, August 5. The Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act would promote competition and make generic products available sooner.

The legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration to continue reviewing generic insulin applications "after the agency's March 2020 cut-off date," according to a press release from Durbin's office.

Along with Durbin, the legislation was introduced in July by U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Insulin has seen a 600 percent price increase in the past 20 years, according to the statement, yet around 7.5 million diabetic Americans rely on insulin to survive.

As a result, people in the U.S. report underusing insulin to save money leading to dangerous and inadequate blood sugar control.

“America’s insulin pricing scandal is a disgrace," Durbin said in the statement.  "Basic insulin was first discovered nearly a century ago, yet Big Pharma’s price gouging is driving families and children to extraordinarily dangerous lengths – like rationing supplies – in order to afford a medication they need to survive."

The patent for insulin was famously sold for $1 because the Nobel Prize-winning team of researchers believed the drug should be made widely available to the public without inflated price barriers.

In the U.S. there are three insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. According to Durbin's statement, Lantus, a brand of insulin, cost $35 in 2001 when it was first introduced in the U.S. The price soon rose to more than $372 a vial, while costing $46 in France and $67 in Canada.

"For millions of people living with diabetes, including all individuals with type 1 diabetes, access to insulin is literally a matter of life and death," a study published in 2018 by the American Diabetes Association said.

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