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Senator Hassan Presses Big Pharma Companies on Increasing Access to Lower-Cost Insulin

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan today pressed three major insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, on increasing access to lower-cost insulin for Americans with diabetes. Senator Hassan also questioned major pharmacy benefit managers, CVS Caremark and Express Scripts, on their role in these efforts.

To view Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

Senator Hassan opened by recounting the all-too-common experience that Americans have of going to the pharmacy counter and being frustrated to learn that a prescription they need is hundreds of dollars over their regular copay.

“Everybody in this room knows, when you’ve got a child who’s sick or a loved one who’s sick, and you’ve just been through a process of getting a diagnosis and getting a prescription that you hope is going to help, this is the last complication you need,” said Senator Hassan.

Senator Hassan pressed manufacturers on access to lower-cost insulin. Although Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi have all announced that they will make some types of insulin available at $35 per month or less, the companies have not made it clear how patients can access these discounts and actually pay less for insulin.

David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly and Company; Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi; and Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, President and CEO of Novo Nordisk shared how their companies can allow uninsured patients to access the $35 insulin cost through online coupons, filling out forms, or connecting with their customer assistance teams.

When Mr. Hudson stated that these processes are “really not that complicated,” Senator Hassan pushed back, saying that “I think it’s very straightforward for you. I’m not sure it always is for patients.”

Senator Hassan then questioned leaders of pharmacy benefit managers, which serve as the middlemen between manufacturers and consumers. “[M]anufacturers are taking steps to lower list prices and over-the-counter prices of insulin,” said Senator Hassan. “However, patients with insurance only benefit from these reduced prices if PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] also step up to make sure these lower-cost options are covered.”

Senator then asked David Joyner, President of CVS Health’s Pharmacy Services, and Adam Kautzner, President of Express Scripts, on how their companies are ensuring that lower-cost insulins, including generics, are available to patients with commercial insurance.

Although the witnesses shared steps that they are taking, Senator Hassan continued to press them on the importance of pharmaceutical benefit managers prioritizing access to the lowest-price insulin.

Senator Hassan is working to lower prescription drug costs across the board, and she successfully pushed to cap insulin costs for those on Medicare as part of the Inflation Reduction Act that became law last year.