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Senators Jeanne Shaheen & Susan Collins: New England is leading the way on insulin but there's more Congress can do to lower costs for all Americans

HERE IN Northern New England, we’re on the path toward something incredible – therapies that if approved could revolutionize diabetes treatment as we know it. Just last month and here on the Seacoast, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Lonza embarked on a groundbreaking mission for curative diabetes cell therapies, opening a new manufacturing facility with the sole purpose of working toward a future where Type 1 patients can live free of daily insulin injections. Those companies are drawing on the local talent of New Hampshire and Maine to get a cure over the finish line.

These advancements in medical treatment didn’t happen by accident; for decades, the federal government has invested heavily in research toward treating and curing diabetes, spending $2.4 billion in 2022 alone. We’ve already seen some results – continuous glucose monitors and the artificial pancreas are gamechangers for patients and the direct result of federal research and funding. As senior Appropriators and Co-Chairs of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, we’re excited to see those investments pay off. But we know our work isn’t nearly finished.

Right now, far too many Americans are forced to ration life-saving medicine—like the 8.4 million that rely on insulin. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, this shouldn’t be our reality. Over the last several decades, we have seen the cost of insulin reach exorbitant highs, jeopardizing the lives and well-being of families across the country and in our home states of New Hampshire and Maine.

On average, Americans on private insurance spend $456 out-of-pocket annually on insulin. For patients on high-deductible health plans – about 30 percent of all employer-based health insurance – those costs are much higher and can lead to bad outcomes. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adults with diabetes enrolled in a high deductible health plan were 25 percent more likely to go to the emergency department or hospital for treatment. And these out-of-pocket costs and risks are even higher for the uninsured, who pay more than double out-of-pocket annually than the insured.

For years, the two of us have worked together—a Democrat and a Republican—to find commonsense solutions to this problem. Congress has already limited Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $35 per month. Twenty-five states have already capped insulin costs for insurance plans they regulate within their borders. And it was welcome news to hear recently that some of the largest insulin manufacturers announced they will finally lower their list prices. But we can’t rely on the companies alone. In fact, we are already seeing reports that patients are struggling to find that cheaper insulin at their local pharmacies.

We believe we need a comprehensive solution to dramatically reduce the financial burden placed on patients seeking their lifesaving insulin by limiting the amount they have to pay out-of-pocket each month. We also want a long-term approach that would help ensure that the insulin market has adequate competition, which is proven to lower prices across the board. The current insulin market is distorted in part by the influence of Pharmacy Benefit Managers who benefit from higher list prices as well as limited competition from companies developing lower cost biosimilar products. With more competition comes more choice, better access and better outcomes for Granite Staters and Mainers.

We are tackling this in the Senate with the INSULIN Act. With a renewed appetite for legislative action, we believe that we can break the logjam and finally deliver on the promise so many have made before: ensuring the long-term affordability of insulin for all Americans.

We are calling on Senate leadership to deliver on their promise and bring this to the floor as swiftly as possible. Democrats and Republicans both want to make good on that commitment to the American people.

If we can do this, we can save lives and help families keep more money in their pockets.