Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi asked by US lawmakers to explain rising cost of insulin

Two US House Democrats sent letters to Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi seeking information on why the cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years. Frank Pallone, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette, chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, also asked the companies to disclose net profits for their insulin products for the last 10 years.

According to the letters, recent price rises for insulin have put it "out of reach for many patients," with some also rationing doses. "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," Pallone and DeGette wrote.

The lawmakers noted that despite being discovered around 100 years ago, the price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, while almost doubling from 2012 to 2016. Pallone and DeGette asked the drugmakers to provide an explanation of factors that prompted any price increases for their products in the last 10 years, as well as seeking information on any changes or modifications made to the therapies.

Pallone and DeGette are also seeking information on what is preventing the companies from lowering insulin prices and making it more affordable and they expect the overall market price of the medicine to change in the next five years. A spokesman for DeGette noted that the committee has not set a date for a hearing, although the companies have been asked to respond to the requests by February 13. Sanofi confirmed that it received the letter and  would work with the committee on the matter.

Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives' Oversight Committee started a probe into a dozen pharmaceutical companies regarding drug pricing, asking for information and communications about price increases, R&D investments and corporate strategies to maintain market share and pricing power. The drugmakers sent letters in that investigation included Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

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