Merkley, Bonamici target high insulin prices

Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced legislation to end “exorbitant price hikes” on insulin.

The End Price Gouging for Insulin Act comes as a new report highlights the high cost of insulin in Northwest Oregon.

The report, produced for U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, found that Medicare beneficiaries in the region pay more than $1,000 more per year in out-of-pocket costs for some diabetes medications than people in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee compared prices for the 50 most popular brand-name prescription diabetes medication in Oregon’s First congressional district to the same drugs in the other three countries. It found that costs here are 4.6 times higher than in Australia, 3.2 times higher than in the U.K. and 2.4 times higher than in Canada.

About 20,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with diabetes in the district, according to Bonamici.

“In Oregon, the average Social Security benefit is only about $1,400 a month — and we know nearly one-third of people 65 and older rely on this earned benefit for most or all of their income,” Ruby Haughton-PittsState Director for AARP Oregon, said in a written statement on the report. “Older adults take an average of 4.5 prescription medications a month. When you do the math, it’s clearly unsustainable.

Over the past decade, the list price for common insulin products in the U.S. has tripled, even though the products haven’t substantially changed, according to Merkley. One study found that one in four Americans with diabetes rations their insulin, leading to serious health consequences, such as heart attacks and strokes.

“It’s tragic, it’s unacceptable and its’ time to end this rip-off,” Merkley said.