Mainers with Diabetes Call on Sen. Collins to Take Action on Insulin Prices

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 12:00pm
Mainers with diabetes are calling on Senator Susan Collins to back legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower insulin and other prescription drug prices as part of a national day of action to mark World Diabetes Day.

In videos posted to social media today, Mainers from across the state are calling out the price gouging and political influence of large pharmaceutical companies.

"I need insulin like I need air. Without it I will die, quickly and painfully, yet a $6 bottle of insulin costs me well over $100 every 17 days when I go pick up my prescription," said Natasha Nolan of Springvale, in a news release. "My life is just as valuable as the life of a CEO who profits millions of dollars a year off of my disease."

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Maine has the highest percentage of individuals diagnosed with diabetes in New England. Although insulin has been in use since 1922, prescription drug corporations have tripled the cost of popular types of insulin over the last decade, increasing the price of some by as much as 800 percent.

During that time, Sen. Collins has supported industry-friendly pricing legislation while refusing to back bills allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices and other structural reforms.

"It's essentially smoke and mirrors. It makes it look like she's doing something, when in all actuality, she's not. It's a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound," said Rosemary Enobakhare, director of Affordable Insulin NOW. "What we do know is that Susan Collins has taken $400,000 over her career from pharmaceutical companies. It just paints a very clear picture, who she's for, and who she's not for."

"I want Maine's congressional delegation to forcefully stand up to Big Pharma and do something about this, but in particular Susan Collins, who needs to demonstrate and show some leadership on this issue and finally stand up to these companies," said Dave Chirayath of Portland, who says he has had to choose between buying insulin and paying his bills.

This cycle, Collins received a maximum contribution from the lobbyist for Eli Lilly, who also gave to her PAC. The pharmaceutical giant, which has recently increased the price of Humalog up by 569%, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over insulin price fixing.

"Congress, we need your help. The cost of insulin is killing diabetics who can't afford this live-saving medication," said B.J. Garceau of Bangor. "You can't have people expect to make these choices, if we're going to pay for a vial of insulin or our rent that month. We need your help. I'm begging you."

Mike Tipping is director of the Maine People's Alliance, mainepeoplesalliance.org