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Committee report finds that local Medicare patients are paying 4x more for insulin than abroad

Posted at 5:49 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 18:01:51-04

BALTIMORE — Maryland Medicare patients are paying 4.4 times more for brand-name diabetes medications than patients in Australia, according to a new report prepared by the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

They also found that on average, uninsured patients buying a popular insulin, Novolog Flexpen, will pay $650 for a month's supply compared to $28 in Australia.

Diabetics need insulin to survive, but for some people, they just can't afford it at today's prices.

Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, Executive Vice-Chair for the Department of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has seen patients ration their supply to make it last longer or stop using their medications.

"Suddenly, someone who was under really good glucose control suddenly has poor glucose. So I asked them, 'What's changed?' And embarrassingly, they will say they're not buying the insulin because they need to buy their food," said Dr. Hill during a news conference Wednesday morning.

She added that not taking medications as prescribed can lead to a number of complications, which actually costs the health care system more money.

Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairman, said he's working on a bill that would allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare patients.

"Ms. Worsham is a working mother whose daughter had Type 1 diabetes. Her daughter died tragically at the age of 22 when she began to ration her insulin. The insulin costs, listen to this, the insulin costs and she couldn't afford it, $333 a month. So, she died because she could not put together $333 a month and she died at 22," Cummings said.

Maryland legislators are also addressing soaring drug prices. A bill passed the General Assembly creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which will look at ways to control drug costs. The governor has not yet signed the bill.

To read the full committee report, click here.