Originally published on June 7, 2019
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D- 3rd Dist.) held a news conference on May 29 at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia to release a report on the prices of diabetes drugs for seniors and the uninsured in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District.
The report finds that the prices of diabetes medications — and insulin in particular — are far higher in the United States than they are overseas, in part because Medicare lacks the authority to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers.
For example, the cost of a widely used insulin for Medicare beneficiaries in Pennsylvania’s 3rd District could be reduced by up to 94 percent at Australian prices, 91 percent at British prices, and 89 percent at Canadian prices.
In addition, for one popular brand of insulin, uninsured patients in the district pay 21 times as much as patients in Australia, 14 times as much as patients in the United Kingdom, and 12 times as much as patients in Canada.
“I hope that these specifics can shine a spotlight on the problem and bring about change,” Evans said.
The press conference included personal stories from constituents about their hardships in affording their vital diabetes medications.
“As healthcare providers, we spend valuable patient contact time assessing patients’ access to and cost of insulin and other medications and diabetic supplies,” said Dr. Nissa Blocher, MD, the Steven, Daniel and Douglas Altman Chair of Endocrinology at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. “We employ nurses to assist patients in navigating insurance and pharmacy benefits, determining preferred brands of medications, and applying for assistance programs and grants. Unfortunately, even these efforts are sometimes not enough, and patients are often left with a significant financial burden.”
The House Oversight Committee prepared the report at Evans’ request. It found there are about 22,000 people on Medicare in the 3rd Congressional District who have been diagnosed with diabetes, and that there are about 47,000 uninsured people in the district, who often bear the entire burden of their prescription drug prices.