Senators Demand Clarity: Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi Under Scrutiny for Insulin Assistance Programs
In a quest for transparency, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Tina Smith have fired off a pointed letter to the CEOs of Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. The subject of their inquiry? The details of the companies’ low-cost insulin assistance programs.
Back in March 2023, Lilly made headlines by slashing prices on their most commonly prescribed insulin products by a whopping 70%. Novo Nordisk and Sanofi swiftly followed suit, unveiling substantial discounts and more inclusive access initiatives. These three giants command a staggering 90% of the U.S. insulin market.
However, in their recent letter, the Democratic senators raised concerns that the companies hadn’t made the process of accessing these support programs sufficiently clear. They also criticized the programs for being “replete with obstacles” that hinder patients from enrolling effectively.
A major sticking point is the senators’ worry that the Patient Assistance Programs employed by these companies involve arduous and technical application procedures that severely restrict patient access to affordable insulin. Some patients are required to navigate five to ten pages of documentation just to apply for these crucial access programs.
To shed light on the situation, the senators are demanding a comprehensive understanding of these programs. They’ve requested a full copy of the Patient Assistance Program application form, as well as a detailed breakdown of any additional steps patients must navigate beyond the application itself. Additionally, they want to know precisely what personal information and extra documentation from medical providers the application processes entail.
The pressure is on, with a deadline of September 15 for the drugmakers to provide the requested information.
This call for transparency comes amid a broader effort by the Biden administration to tackle soaring drug prices. President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022, with the ambitious goal of saving $25 billion in drug costs over the next eight years. The IRA includes a game-changing drug price negotiation provision, granting the Department of Health and Human Services the power to renegotiate Medicare prices for the most commonly prescribed treatments, set to take effect in 2026.
In a significant development, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently unveiled the first 10 medicines to be impacted by this negotiation program. Among them are Novo’s insulin products Fiasp and NovoLog, as well as diabetes drugs like Lilly’s Jardiance, Merck’s Januvia, and AstraZeneca’s Farxiga. Together, these 10 drugs have cost the U.S. government a staggering $50 billion from June 2022 to May 2023.