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Colorado becomes first state to put cap on rising insulin prices

Insulin makers grilled on price surges
  • Colorado has become the first state to cap insulin prices, which have more than doubled since 2012. 
  • The state is capping co-payments for diabetics with private insurance at $100 per month. 
  • Diabetics in the U.S. on average spent about $5,700 for the drug in 2016, reports the Health Care Cost Institute. 

In the latest pushback against surging insulin prices, Colorado has become the first state in the nation to put a cap on the cost of the medication.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed legislation Wednesday capping co-payments on insulin for Americans with private insurance at $100 per month. That ceiling is way under the typical cost of the medicine, which can range from $600 to $900 per month.

"The days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado," Polis said. 

Sponsored by state Rep. Dylan Roberts, who lost his brother to diabetes, the legislation will go into effect January 2020. 

The price of insulin, which has nearly doubled in five years from 2012 to 2016, has prompted public outrage and lawmaker scrutiny. As part of the legislation, Colorado said it will also investigate the surge in insulin pricing in the state.

In early May, President Donald Trump passed a rule requiring pharmaceutical companies to reveal the price of prescription drugs in TV commercials. Drugmakers argue the requirement could confuse consumers, since drug prices can vary based on insurance plans.

Insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly this week started selling half-price insulin. However, critics say the medicine, which costs $137.35 per vial, is still higher than what diabetics pay in other countries.

Insulin in the U.S. is produced by just three manufacturers — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — which together control 99% of the market and drive pricing. Diabetics in the U.S. spent about $5,700 annually on the drug in 2016, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, a research organization funded by health insurance companies.

The high cost is driving some Americans to ration their insulin, which can have deadly consequences for diabetics. More than one-quarter of diabetics said they had to cut back on the drug in a study last year.