Skyrocketing prices of insulin in recent years have increased medical costs for the millions of people living with diabetes around the country and in Florida.
Congress has been putting pressure on drug companies to lower insulin prices. The price of insulin in the U.S. is 10 times higher than it was 20 years ago, according to a report by the U.S. House of Representatives released earlier this year.
One company, Cigna's Express Scripts, recently announced it will launch a "patient assurance program" that will cap the copay for a patient at $25 a month for their insulin.
Yet rather than wait for other companies to jump on board — or the federal government to take action — states have begun taking legislative measures of their own. Colorado passed a bill in its last legislative session to require caps on insulin prescriptions. It was signed into law in May. Now, some Florida Democrats are looking to follow suit.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, and Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami, have filed early bills (HB 109 and SB 116) for the next legislative session that would require caps on insulin prescriptions for people that have insurance.
WLRN sat down with Scott Kjelson, an assistant professor of pharmacy at Nova Southeastern University, who's been advocating for the bills.
WLRN: What do these bills actually do?
KJELSON: These bills will cap insulin copays, so that basically patients are not given a $600 dollar bill after their insurance kicks in.
We all know drug prices are really expensive. The problem that I saw was, not enough people were focusing on drug prices solutions. They were thinking more about the complaint and waiting for the federal government to do something. When we talk about diabetes, people need this drug to live — just like you and I need food and water.
How much is this bill - if it gets passed next year - really going to reduce or cap the prices of insulin?
So, the cap basically is going to be set at $100 per vial. The big thing about this is, at $600 or $1,000 people may not buy it. But at $100 they may. So there's an opportunity that increases the amount of people that actually purchase that drug, which I believe also increases a point of care at the pharmacy, where pharmacists can do their job and actually educate the patients on the importance of the medication.
What effects are you seeing patients deal with from high insulin prices?
That's the problem, is that we end up not seeing them. Because, people stop coming to the pharmacy. They start trying to ration their drugs. And the importance of a chronic care management is management. I feel more people are finding that some of the things that we are working on are educating them to be passionate about their own health.