Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The House energy and commerce committee on Wednesday asked three major insulin manufacturers to explain to explain to lawmakers why the cost of the diabetes drug is on the rise.
"When patients go without insulin -- or ration their doses -- there can be tragic consequences," said a letter written to the companies by Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGette, D-Colo.
"News reports have highlighted stories of diabetics who have died because they could not afford insulin. No American should suffer because they could not afford their insulin. As one of the few manufacturers of insulin in the United States, your company is well-suited to shed light on these issues and offer potential solutions."
The committee asked for the average price of insulin over the past 10 years and explanations for any increases as well as any barriers to lowering the prices. Lawmakers also sought information on any agreements the companies entered into in the past 10 years that delayed or limited the availability of generic insulin.
A study released earlier this month found that there have been steady price hikes on older brand-name drugs, including some forms of insulin. For example, the list price for Lantus brand insulin increased by 49 percent in 2014, even though the product has been on the market for more than a decade.
Price hikes also can cause patients to face hard choices regarding their health. More than a quarter of people with diabetes have skimped on their insulin shots because of soaring prices, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December.
"This is a lifesaving drug that millions of Americans rely on -- we can't let its cost put it out of reach," DeGette said of insulin.