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False Lead: Senator’s Offer To Help Patient Import Cheap Insulin Goes Nowhere

Jay Hancock, Kaiser Health News

It appeared like a solution to prayers for hundreds of thousands with diabetes struggling to pay hovering costs for insulin.

At a congressional listening to final month, Sen. Mike Enzi mentioned an adviser had discovered “a foundation to import insulin for a number of people at lower cost.” The Wyoming Republican instructed the mom of a younger man with Type 1 diabetes that his adviser “worked through a foundation so that it would be legal, and I will share that with you.”

Such a bunch might hyperlink sufferers to secure medicines whereas saving them tons of or hundreds of a 12 months. But it doesn’t seem to exist, leaving sufferers with diabetes to both pay sky-high U.S. costs or attempt to import low-cost insulin on their very own, which is technically unlawful.

Enzi spokesman Max D’Onofrio mentioned he was unable to establish the group. And neither the American Diabetes Association nor the Campaign for Personal Prescription Importation is conscious of a basis just like the one Enzi described, officers at these teams mentioned.

“I have no idea what Sen. Enzi was talking about, but I’d like to know,” mentioned Gabriel Levitt, president of, which helps sufferers evaluate drugs costs and join with international pharmacies.

Enzi spoke at a Jan. 29 listening to on drug costs held by the Senate finance committee. He was addressing Kathy Sego, whose son had skipped insulin doses to save lots of the household cash and was profiled by Kaiser Health News in 2017.

Sego mentioned she desires extra info however by no means heard again from Enzi’s workplace. “I have not heard of ANY foundation which helps people with insulin,” she mentioned through electronic mail.

“Sen. Enzi talks to a number of informal advisers, constituents and stakeholders who are concerned about health care costs, including drug prices, and he was referring to an anecdotal conversation he had,” D’Onofrio mentioned. Insulin checklist costs have risen as a lot as threefold previously decade and patients can pay hundreds of dollars per month even with insurance coverage.

While insulin makers Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk typically rebate a portion of these will increase again to insurance coverage corporations and pharmacy profit managers, sufferers’ share of the price is usually based mostly on the checklist value. Uninsured sufferers should pay every thing themselves.

Insulin manufacturers bought within the United States might be purchased for lower than half as a lot in Canada and Mexico, prompting unknown numbers of individuals to drive across the border or order insulin by mail.

Unauthorized importation of prescription drugs is technically unlawful, however the Food and Drug Administration permits “entry of shipments when the quantity and purpose are clearly for personal use,” according to agency rules.

Insulin must be refrigerated, however some Canadian pharmacies will mail it in cold packs to the United States, sufferers report.

Just over a 12 months in the past, FDA legal investigation brokers searched stores in Florida that assist customers order many varieties of medication from Canada and elsewhere. That suggests basis importing insulin in bulk is likely to be topic to the identical type of scrutiny.

For Enzi’s half, he “continues to have concerns that importing prescription drugs from other countries will not solve the problem of rising drug prices,” mentioned his spokesman, D’Onofrio. “He hopes Congress takes real action this year to lower health care costs.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nationwide well being coverage information service. It is an editorially unbiased program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which isn’t affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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