Manar, Guzzardi urge cap on cost of insulin

AARP Illinois cheers bill to limit out-of-pocket expense to $100 a month

State Sen. Andy Manar is lead sponsor of a bill that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $100 a month. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

State Sen. Andy Manar is lead sponsor of a bill that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $100 a month. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The General Assembly is moving to cap the rising cost of insulin — an essential drug to million of diabetics across nation.

State Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill held a news conference this week in Peoria rallying support for his Senate Bill 667, which would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $100 a month.

“There are people in this state who have to choose between buying their prescription insulin and paying for groceries or making their mortgage payment,” Manar said in a statement accompanying a news release on the event. “These prices are absolutely out of control, and we have a responsibility as lawmakers to take immediate action to ensure that every person has access to the care they need.”

Megan Blair, a Harristown single mother and a diabetic, said at the news conference that the insulin she needs to survive had jumped in cost over the last decade from $800 to $1,800. “Something needs to change,” she said. “Something has to be done about this.”

Canadian scientists won a Nobel Prize almost a century ago for discovering insulin as a treatment for diabetics, who need it to regulate blood sugar. According to a story earlier this year in USA Today, they sold the patent for it to the University of Toronto for $3 Canadian, and “the university administered the patent and received royalty payments from drug companies that sold human insulin.”

But the story added, “The price of modern versions of a drug that more than 7 million Americans need to live nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013, according to one study. Type 1 diabetics paid an average of $5,705 for insulin in 2016,” double what they paid only four years before, with the result that patients were suffering and in some cases dying from trying to cut dosages to extend their insulin supply.

The American Diabetes Association confirmed that, adding that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes, 7.4 million of whom require prescription insulin every day, and many patients ration their supply or seek care outside of the country.

In testimony before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee earlier this year, three top insulin firms detailed how their prices had risen. According to the USA Today story: “The price for one vial of Eli Lilly's Humalog surged from $35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015. From 2013 to this year, Novo Nordisk's Novolog jumped from $289 to $540 and Sanofi’s Lantus from $244 to $431.”

“For far too long pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to take advantage of people who require this medication to live, and it’s unacceptable,” said state Sen. Dave Koehler of Peoria, who joined Manar at the news conference along with Peoria state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth. “Working to ease the financial burden on families who require prescription insulin is the humane thing to do,” Koehler added.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi of Chicago, lead sponsor in the House, chimed in, saying: “We cannot continue to sit back and allow drug companies to charge exorbitant prices on lifesaving medication that people depend on every day. Instead of crushing Illinois consumers to pad corporate profits, let’s take real action to prioritize the actual health and well-being of Illinois residents who rely on insulin.”

The legislation would make Illinois the second state in the country to cap out-of-pocket insulin expenses, after Colorado passed a similar law earlier this year.

The American Diabetes Association, Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois Pharmacists Association, and AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, all made clear their support for the bill.

“AARP Illinois supports this measure on behalf of our 1.7 million members, many of whom have told us about the hardships they face in paying for their prescription drugs,” said State Director Bob Gallow. “We commend Sen. Manar, Rep. Guzzardi, and other legislators for recognizing that everyday Illinois residents are having to make heartbreaking choices about whether to pay for medicine or other basic necessities with their fixed incomes. And we hope that SB667 will be a stepping stone to getting further reforms that will lower the cost of prescription drugs for everyone.”