House Dems call on the FTC to investigate potential collusion among top three insulin manufacturers
Striking while the iron is hot, six House Democrats sent a letter Thursday to the acting chairwoman of the FTC (10 days after the FTC said it would crack down on pharma mergers), calling for an investigation into the potential collusion of insulin market leaders Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk.
Led by Rep. Katie Porter of California, the letter notes that the three companies raised the prices of their insulins in lockstep, and between 2012 and 2016, the price of insulin almost doubled. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland sent a letter to the FTC raising similar charges of collusion among the same three companies in 2016.
“It is a uniquely American phenomenon that patients with diabetes are regularly forced to ration insulin and risk death,” wrote Porter, along with Democratic Reps. Lloyd Doggett (TX), Cori Bush (MO), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Peter Welch (VT), and Ro Khanna (CA).
Last March, the FDA officially transitioned insulin products from all three companies from drugs to biologics, meaning competition would have to come in the form of biosimilars, or even interchangeable biosimilars, rather than generics.
“The transition of insulin from the drug to the biologics pathway will open up these products to biosimilar competition,” former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in April 2019. “We’re already seeing robust activity among sponsors seeking to bring forward biosimilar copies of insulin.”
But one year since that transition occurred, and the fruits of that activity have not translated into new insulin biosimilars yet.
For now, the House Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to do something, saying any action would align with its “commitment to equality” as Black Americans are facing an epidemic of amputations “largely caused by exorbitant insulin prices,” the Democrats wrote.
“It is clear that the insulin market is broken, and we believe that an FTC investigation and intervention is long overdue,” they added.
Just 3 companies control nearly all of our insulin supply: Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk. Shocker: it turns out they raise prices in tandem—at least 13x in 10 years—while patients are rationing or starving themselves to try to cut costs. I want answers. pic.twitter.com/AtkH3OonTs
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) March 26, 2021