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CT Senator Spearheads Bill Targeting High Drug Prices

According to the Health Care Cost Institute, the average price of insulin increased from 13 cents per unit to 25 cents per unit between 2012 and 2016. (Melissa Johnson/Flickr)
According to the Health Care Cost Institute, the average price of insulin increased from 13 cents per unit to 25 cents per unit between 2012 and 2016. (Melissa Johnson/Flickr)
July 2, 2019

HARTFORD, Conn. — Lawmakers in Congress are reaching across the aisle to address the high cost of life-saving drugs. The bipartisan Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act targets what critics see as the pharmaceutical industry's anti-competitive behaviors that restrict access to cheaper generic drugs.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is one of the bill's authors. He held a meeting Monday in Hartford to discuss the legislation, where he was joined by patients who are struggling with surges in the price of insulin.

"Insulin has been around for 100 years, it's not a new wonder drug,” Blumenthal said. “And yet, the big pharmaceutical drug companies are able to keep out competition and lower-priced generics or bio-similars."

The cost of insulin has more than doubled in the last decade.

Senate Bill 1416 has seven co-sponsors so far, four Republicans and three Democrats. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill last week. It now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Blumenthal charges pharmaceutical companies with squeezing billions of dollars from consumers with practices known as "patent thicketing," which blocks competitors from making generic versions of their drugs. The bill addresses this practice and others, but the senator said there's still a long way to go to protect people from predatory pricing.

"America is sick and tired with the cost of prescription drugs, and this measure is one step toward providing more affordable drugs for people,” he said. “My hope is that it will be adopted as a first step – hardly a last one – in helping patients avoid the higher cost of prescription drugs."

Experts say diabetes is the most expensive chronic illness in the United States, with total treatment costs of more than $327 billion per year, $15 billion of which is spent on insulin.

Blumenthal said he hopes Senate Bill 1416 will increase competition in the drug industry as a strategy to lower prices.

Jenn Stanley, Public News Service - CT