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Bonamici Releases Report on High Cost of Insulin in NW Oregon

November 12, 2019
Press Release
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day

 

WASHINGTON, DC [11/12/19] – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) released a report during Diabetes Awareness Month that highlights the high cost of insulin in Oregon’s First Congressional District.

 

The report, which was produced for Bonamici by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, compares prices for the 50 most popular brand-name prescription diabetes medications in NW Oregon to the same drugs in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. It found that Medicare beneficiaries in NW Oregon pay over a thousand dollars more per year in out-of-pocket costs for some medications than people in the other countries.

 

You can see the full report here. The report finds that the Medicare costs in Oregon’s First District for the top 50 drugs are:

  • 4.6 times higher than in Australia
  • 3.2 times higher than in the UK
  • 2.4 times higher than in Canada

 

Approximately 20,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with diabetes in Oregon’s First District, which includes Washington, Yamhill, Clatsop, and Columbia counties and part of Multnomah County.

 

“No one should have to jeopardize their health or worry about affording food because of exorbitant prices for insulin,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Companies are charging much more for these critical drugs in the U.S. than abroad, hurting seniors and families in Northwest Oregon and across the country. I support the Lower Drug Costs Now Act to stop these disparities and allow Medicare to negotiate for better prices.”

 

“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,” said Ruby Haughton-Pitts, State Director for AARP Oregon. “Older adults take an average of 4.5 prescription medications a month. When you do the math, it’s clearly unsustainable. For example, the diabetes medication Lantus has gone from $2,907 in 2012 to $4,702 in 2017. This impacts the thousands of older adults with diabetes to the point where we know some people skip medication – which can land them in the emergency room or hospital. American should not be paying the high cost of prescription drugs in the world. It’s time to Stop Rx Greed and Cut Drug Prices Now.”

 

“Insulin – a drug that was invented 97 years ago – has tripled in price since the 1990s,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “There is no way that insulin has gotten three times better since then.  It’s time to end the pharmaceutical industry’s price gouging of Americans with serious illnesses.  That’s why the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare supports Representative Suzanne Bonamici’s efforts to pass H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would leverage the market power of nearly 60 million Medicare beneficiaries by finally allowing the program to negotiate prescription drug prices.” 

 

Bonamici is a sponsor of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would help lower the cost of prescription drugs like insulin by creating an international pricing index that would address price disparities among the U.S. and other countries. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, and make those prices available to private employers and insurers that cover people of all ages.

 

More findings from the report can be found below. The methodology and additional background are available in the full report.

 

 

Costs to Seniors and Medicare

 

In the 1st Congressional District of Oregon, there are an estimated 20,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with diabetes. In this district, the top 50 diabetes medications cost the Medicare program and beneficiaries approximately $12.7 million in 2016.

 

These same drugs are available at significantly lower prices in other countries.

  • The costs to Medicare for the top 50 drugs are 4.6 times higher than the costs of the same drugs in Australia. If Medicare had paid what Australia pays for these drugs, the costs to the program in this district would have been about 73 percent lower, saving approximately $9.2 million.

 

  • The costs to Medicare are 3.2 times higher than the costs of the same drugs in the United Kingdom. If Medicare had paid what the United Kingdom pays for these drugs, the costs to the program in this district would have been about 69 percent lower, saving approximately $8.7 million.

 

  • The costs to Medicare for the top 50 drugs are 2.4 times higher than the costs of the same drugs in Canada. If Medicare had paid what Canada pays for these drugs, the costs to the program in this district would have been about 47 percent lower, saving approximately $5.9 million.

 

Because Medicare beneficiaries may be responsible for a significant part of their drug costs until they reach catastrophic coverage limits, Medicare beneficiaries in the district also would have realized substantial savings if these drugs were made available at the lower prices charged in foreign countries. For example:

  • A Medicare beneficiary in the district with a 25 percent co-insurance requirement could incur up to approximately $1,430 in out-of-pocket costs for an annual supply of Novolog Flexpen.

 

  • These costs could be reduced by up to 94 percent at Australian prices (a savings of approximately $1,340 for the beneficiary), 91 percent at UK prices (a savings of approximately $1,300 for the beneficiary), and 90 percent at Canadian prices (a savings of approximately $1,280 for the beneficiary).

 

Costs to Uninsured Patients

 

The estimated 53,000 uninsured individuals in the district pay even higher prices for their drugs as compared to patients in other countries.

  • Uninsured diabetes patients in the district who purchase a monthly supply of Lantus Solostar—a popular brand of insulin—pay an average discounted price of $357, as compared to $33 in Australia, $51 in the United Kingdom, and $70 in Canada (a 11, 7, and 5 times difference, respectively).

 

Uninsured diabetes patients in the district who purchase a monthly supply of Novolog Flexpen—another popular insulin brand—pay an average discounted price of $588, as compared to $28 in Australia, $42 in the United Kingdom, and $47 in Canada (a 21, 14, and 12 times difference, respectively).

 

 

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