As insulin prices skyrocket, Michigan lawmakers look to make it in-state
If California can figure out a way to lower insulin prices for its residents, why can’t Michigan do the same?
That’s the mindset of a group of state lawmakers, including Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington. The group has met with drugmakers — including Pfizer — and local universities to talk about what it would take to cut the cost of insulin for residents with diabetes.
In an interview with Bridge Michigan, VanderWall said that there are two main avenues to explore. One involves bringing manufacturers to the table and getting them to offer to sell the drugs at cost. The other involves taking the state, and turning it into a manufacturer itself.
Insulin has been around 100 years, but the prices have skyrocketed in the 21st century. Research from GoodRx shows that the average retail price for insulin rose 54% from 2014 to 2019. This is due, in part, to the lack of competition, as three companies —Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly— provide all of the insulin to the US.
VanderWall has spoken with both the University of Michigan and Michigan State about manufacturing drugs through their campuses. A spokesperson confirmed those early talks. The state once had its own drug manufacturing facility, as it was started back in the 1920s, but that was sold in 1998 to BioPort, now Emergent BioSolutions.
Other states have taken a stab at curbing the steep prices. Colorado installed a price cap on insulin in 2019, and Nevada passed a mandated price transparency law in 2017. Most famously, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly said that his state is moving toward providing residents with low-cost insulin. In January, he announced that the state was working on a partnership that would make the drug at a “profoundly reduced” price, though no specifics were divulged. Blue Shield of California joined the initiative in March, partnering with Civica to help manufacture generics that could cost $30 or less per vial. That isn’t expected to be available until 2024, however.
This isn’t VanderWall’s first foray into prescription drugs. As the chair of the Health Policy and Human Services Committee, he celebrated the passing of HB 4348 in February. The bill allows pharmacies to offer more affordable prescription drugs to those in need.
Social: Michigan State Capitol (shutterstock)