Prices for diabetes medicine continues to rise in the United States

Prices for diabetes medicine continues to rise in the United States

Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announced the release of a House staff report on the cost of diabetes drugs in her Florida district.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform launched an investigation into the prescription drug industry’s pricing practices in January. Chairman Elijah Cummings said “drug companies have aggressively increased prices on existing drugs … while recording windfall profits.”

The investigation’s goal was to learn what steps could be taken to reduce prescription drug prices.

The report on diabetes drugs released June 12 focuses on the impact of high prices on seniors and uninsured patients in the 26th Congressional District. While part of the House investigation on abuses by the pharmaceutical

industry, it’s also a push by the Congresswoman to tackle skyrocketing insulin prices in her district.

Created in 2012, the 26th District stretches from South Kendall across the state including all of the Keys, Homestead, and Monroe County with a 2016 population of 788,000 people.

The congressional report estimates 21,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district have diabetes. Approximately 139,000 district residents are uninsured and bear the entire cost of their prescription drugs.

The report states that prices of diabetes medications are far higher in the United States than overseas.

Uninsured patients pay 21 times more than they would in Australia, 14 times more than in England and 12 times more than in Canada.  The federal government provides drug coverage through Medicare Part D to about 43 million people at a cost of $99 billion in 2019. Yet Medicare lacks the authority to negotiate directly with drug manufactures, according to the staff report. 

“Reports like this are important to build a comprehensive plan to tackle the soaring cost of health care,” said Mucarsel-Powell.

“It’s yet another example of why Medicare must be empowered to negotiate prescription drug prices.”

The House Oversight Committee’s statement also said Part D payments for brand-name drugs increased by 62% from 2011 to 2015 even though the number of prescriptions fell by 17%.

A prescription for the diabetes drug Tradjenta has a $600 co-pay for three months with Medicare Part D insurance. Uninsured patients buying Lantus Solostar (a brand of insulin) pay $286 a month versus $70 in Canada. A new diabetes drug Januvia carries an $1800 co-pay for a three month supply with Medicare Part D. That same drug in Canada costs $105 for 330 pills without any insurance.

A recent psychological study concluded diabetes is an epidemic affecting over 30 million Americans at an annual national cost of $300 billion. Florida ranks seventh nationally and the Miami area in the top ten cities with a diabetic population. The congressional report found that diabetes was the primary cause of 85,000 deaths in 2017.

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes affects how your body uses

glucose or blood sugar. Glucose is an important source of energy for the cells and the brain’s main source of fuel. Too much blood sugar causes serious health issues and if untreated, can lead to psychological trauma, amputation of limbs and ultimately premature death.

Type 1 diabetes typically appears during childhood. Type 2 diabetes can develop anytime but is more common in people over 40. Pre-diabetes where blood sugar levels are elevated is reversible as is gestational diabetes that can occur in pregnancy.

Diabetic symptoms include severe thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, and frequent infections.

The Mayo Clinic site recommends diabetes treatment include monitoring blood sugar, using insulin and oral medications, a healthy diet, keeping a healthy weight, and regular exercise. Following a plan like that can manage the risk of diabetes problems.

A non-fasting blood test can monitor glucose.

The A1C test measures average blood sugar over the past two months for how much hemoglobin is carrying sugar. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher indicates diabetes. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates

prediabetes. A measurement below 5.7 percent is considered normal.

The congressional report concludes there could be substantial savings for those required to take insulin or other medications for diabetes if patients paid the same drug prices as charged to people overseas.

Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell is serving her first term in the House. She currently serves on the House Transportation and Judiciary Committees as well as four House subcommittees.

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