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Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer promotes insulin price bill

Schumer with insulin medication
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
Senator Charles Schumer holds an insulin vial and insulin pump as he discusses the cost of the medication

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer was at the medical center in Plattsburgh Tuesday promoting legislation to lower insulin costs.

The New York Democrat traveled to Plattsburgh to discuss the high costs of insulin. Schumer said there are 1.7 million people in the state diagnosed with diabetes, 45,000 in the North Country.

“What good is having these lifesavers if people can’t afford it? These days a single month’s worth of insulin can cost $600 a month," Schumer said. "We have a major push which we hope to put on the floor of the Senate in July that would reduce the outrageous cost of insulin from as high as $600 down to $35 a month. And the good news is we have a bipartisan plan led by two New England senators. And they’ve put together legislation and now we’re fighting to get 60 votes. You need 60 votes to get anything done. But I’m very hopeful that we can get this done. And as Majority Leader I am here to announce that I am going to call a vote in this Congress to cap the price to get this price down.”

Morgan Thomas is a 22-year-old nurse who not only works with diabetes patients, but has the disease herself.

“When I was eight months old I was rushed to the ICU with a blood sugar of 1,350, which in most cases would have killed a 300 pound man, let alone an eight month old baby," Thomas said. "A fasting blood sugar level of 99 or lower is normal for an adult. It was also the day I was diagnosed as a Type-1 diabetic and my life was changed forever. Diabetes is a challenge I face every day. I have to regulate my blood sugar 24-7. Every three days I insert a needle to create a new site for insulin delivery. And once a week I jab myself with another needle to insert a sensor that helps me monitor my blood sugar in real time. I have to have tight regulation on my blood sugar or else I could experience serious damage to my body and face complications in the long run. I have been very fortunate throughout my life to have a good insurance but that is not true for all people with diabetes. I not only see how diabetes affects me and my younger brother but also the patients I care for. I see patients come in with Diabetic Ketoacidosis due to rationing insulin and not having enough to keep their blood sugar in a safe range. It is crucial that we find a way to help make the medicine that keeps them alive affordable.”

Schumer’s office cited estimates from the Health Care Cost Institute showing the average 40-day supply cost for insulin nearly doubled in New York between 2012 and 2016 and now costs about $690.

Schumer says there is no good reason for the price increases.

“The price never used to be that high," the Democrat said. "It keeps going up and up and up and it’s not because of patents. Guess when the patent was issued for insulin? 1921. Guess who did it? A Canadian doctor named Fleming and Dr. Fleming said I’m going to sell the patent to the world for one dollar. So there’s no excuse for insulin being so expensive. It’s gone up every year since 2012 an average of 15 to 17 percent a year. So now one in four Americans who need it have to ration it. The drug companies will still make money at the old price.”

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