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Underwood calls high Diabetes drug prices 'unjustified' at Plainfield event

U.S. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood prepares to address attendees of her press conference on the effect of the high price of diabetes medication.
U.S. Congresswoman Lauren Underwood prepares to address attendees of her press conference on the effect of the high price of diabetes medication.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, recently released a report on the prices of diabetes drugs for seniors and uninsured Americans.

Underwood discussed the report's findings and highlighted the stories of residents in the 14th Congressional District Monday at a press conference at the Edward Hospital Campus in Plainfield. Those residents said they are struggling to pay for diabetes drugs. Over the past two decades, drug manufacturers have raised the price of insulin products more then tenfold, according to the report.

"Sky-high prices are unjustified to say the least," Underwood said.

She added that three manufacturers control about 96% of the market, and they often set prices in lockstep. The report also found that an estimated 15,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district with diabetes are paying anywhere from two to five times as much for their prescription drugs than they would if they lived in Australia, the United Kingdom or Canada. And for the estimated 36,000 uninsured residents of the 14th district, their costs for popular insulin brands could be as much as 13 to 23 times the amount they would pay in those same countries.

Naperville resident Bill Schrier said with all of the prescriptions needed for his wife and two children who have Type 1 diabetes, their medical costs have quadrupled in just the last four years. He said the exorbitant costs have kept them from being able to purchase the drug brands his children prefer.

"Like many Americans with Type 1 diabetes, we've had to make sacrifices and make do with what we can afford," Schrier said.

The report identified at least one reason why drug prices have increased. The report found that seniors pay more, in part, due to Medicare's lack of authority to directly negotiate with manufacturers for lower prices.

Underwood said there are many reforms "on the table" that could pass the House of Representatives. She acknowledged the Trump administration has made some efforts to implement reforms, like expanding its ability to negotiate with manufacturers, but, she added, her Democratic colleagues in the House stand ready to pass actual legislation if the Republican-controlled Senate decides to act.

Darcy Tellone of Yorkville fought back tears talking about how Type 1 diabetes has affected her daughter Lila, 11, and described the urgency with which she wants to see legislators act to fix the problem.

"There's all this talk, but there's no action, and so it's very, very frustrating," Tellone said. "That's just something that I can't bear to see anymore."

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