Decisions by two of the world’s biggest insulin producers to offer bigger discounts on drugs used by millions of diabetics are raising questions from Congress about whether the companies could have done so sooner.
On Wednesday, French drugmaker Sanofi said it would increase discounts on insulin for some patients. The move follows recent efforts by Cigna Corp., which runs a major drug plan, and Eli Lilly & Co., another major insulin producer, to lower patients’ out-of-pocket costs for the drugs.
(Related: Lilly Offers Half-Price Insulin)
The actions by the companies, which have come in the middle of a series of hearings in the House and Senate on drug costs, have raised questions from lawmakers about why it took a drumbeat of public pressure before the companies altered their programs.
“It shouldn’t take months of bad press, persistent public outcry and increasing congressional scrutiny to get a company to charge a fair price,” Senator Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is leading hearings in the Senate, said of Sanofi’s announcement. “That’s not how a functioning marketplace works.”
Sanofi is expanding its “Valyou” discount program. Under the enhanced discounts, some patients would pay $99 a month for what should amount to a month’s supply of Sanofi’s Lantus, Toujeo and Admelog insulins. It’s an improvement from the existing program, which charged patients more for less insulin.
In March, Lilly said it would begin selling a lower-priced version of its top-selling insulin, Humalog, and Cigna this month agreed to cap patient’s out-of-pocket costs for the drugs.
At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, referenced the Eli Lilly price reduction, expressing frustration.
“It took 15 years and global outcry on this to do it,” Kennedy said.
Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, said the discount offerings weren’t a permanent solution. “It’s just a temporary Band-Aid,” DeGette said.