Leaders of a key Senate committee on Friday launched an investigation into the rising cost of insulin, placing firms like Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi under new federal scrutiny days before two of their CEOs are slated to testify in front of the panel.
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the panel’s top Democrat, sent letters to the three drugmakers for information on why insulin – a treatment that has been around for decades – has risen in cost by 500 percent.
“When one insulin product costs the taxpayer more than a billion dollars in one year, the American people ought to know how the company prices its product,” they wrote. “We are concerned that the substantial increases in the price of insulin over the past several years will continue their upward drive and pose increasingly severe hardships.”
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The panel is seeking information on how the companies determine both the list price, as well as the cost consumers pay factoring in discounts the Trump administration is trying to eliminate.
Grassley and Wyden are also seeking details on their research and development costs, putting the companies on the spot to defend against a common rebuttal from the industry that prices are high because drugs cost billions to create.
In Eli Lilly’s case, the lawmakers say the price of its insulin drug, Humalog, increased 585 percent between 2001 and 2015, to $234. Novo Nordisk’s Novolog increased 87 percent in the last six years to 87 percent, while the cost of Sanofi’s Lantus grew 77 percent.
In a statement to FOX Business, an Eli Lilly spokesperson said the firm is "committed to ensuring everyone living with diabetes has reasonable access to insulin."
"A comprehensive policy solution for people with chronic diseases requires commitment from everyone in the healthcare system. Until then, we will continue our work to provide thousands of people each month with access to insulin at significantly lower out-of-pocket costs," they said in an emailed statement.
Novo Nordisk spokesman Ken Inchausti said the company is "reviewing today’s request from the Senate Finance Committee on pricing practices and are in the process of responding."
"We recognize that more needs to be done across the healthcare system for people who are struggling to pay for medicines, and we want to do our part," he told Fox Business.
FOX Business' Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.