Jan 29, 2020

Insulin prices loom large on the 2020 campaign trail for Democrats

Photo: John Fredricks/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It's well known that drug prices matter a lot heading into the 2020 election, but Democratic candidates are making an especially big deal about insulin, STAT reports.

Between the lines: In some cases, there is arguably a justification for why a drug is very expensive. Insulin — which is a very old drug — is not one of those cases. That makes it easy political fodder.

What they're saying: "Insulin is one of the clearest examples of drug manufacturer price-gouging, and grassroots groups have done a really phenomenal job explaining the issue and outlining why insulin is a real problem," Maura Calsyn, managing director of health policy at the Center for American Progress, told STAT.

Flashback to earlier this week: Insulin has also caught the Trump administration's attention, and a proposal is in the works to lower seniors' out-of-pocket costs for the drug.

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The boom times of insulin sales

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

The three drug companies that control the insulin market have seen their net sales climb over the past 12 years even as they have had to agree to bigger discounts, according to an Axios analysis of insulins sold by Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.

The big picture: Drug manufacturers have largely blamed the broken insulin market — where many people with diabetes are rationing their medication — on other actors within the supply chain. But insulin makers have still been able to collect more money overall and retain their power over the market.

Go deeperArrowFeb 13, 2020 - Health

Trump's latest boost for Medicare Advantage

President Trump and CMS administrator Seema Verma. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration announced Wednesday more changes designed to make Medicare Advantage more appealing and to lower prescription drug costs for seniors.

Why it matters: Although the proposal mainly tinkers around the edges, it could have a meaningful impact on some seniors' pocketbooks while furthering the administration's commitment to Medicare Advantage, a cash cow for insurers.

Go deeperArrowFeb 6, 2020 - Health

Zolgensma's lucrative Q4

Novartis said yesterday that Zolgensma — the gene therapy that's the most expensive drug in the world — brought in $186 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, STAT reports.

Why it matters: It suggests that the drug's enormous price tag isn't blocking patients from accessing it, although the costs are ultimately borne through premiums and by taxpayers.

Go deeperArrowJan 30, 2020