ATLANTA — A bill in the Georgia legislature could help people struggling to afford insulin. It would set price caps for the life-saving hormone, and require require drug companies to disclose detailed financial info.
Dan Thrailkill, of Cherokee County, has taken insulin injections every day for three decades. He has watched the price of insulin soar—especially starting five or six years ago.
"That’s when we really started to see insulin costs skyrocket – going up to four, five, six, seven hundred dollars for a box of six insulin pens," Thrailkill said Wednesday.
Thrailkill's pancreas stopped producing insulin when he was seven years old, giving him a condition known as type one diabetes. A million people in Georgia are believed to have either type one or type two diabetes. People with type two diabetes still produce their own insulin, but typically have trouble processing it to aid the body's blood glucose control.
The American Diabetes Association says drug companies tripled the price of insulin between 2002 and 2013.
Republican state Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) says the spike in the price of insulin is puzzling.
"When you can go to other countries and see it for a third of the price, it just makes you wonder why? Why is it so much more expensive here?" Jones asked Wednesday.
Jones has introduced a bill, SB 433, that he calls the Diabetes Drug Pricing Transparency Act. It would cap the price of a vial of insulin at $150.
It would also make drug companies report:
- Their cost to produce insulin
- The cost of advertising and marketing insulin
- Their annual profit from insulin
- An explanation for price increases
- And the amount of financial assistance they give to patients who need it.
It also requires detailed info from insurers and pharmacy providers.
Another bill introduced by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), would cap insulin prices at $100 per vial. Her bill wouldn't require the financial details.
Thrailkill says it’s unclear to him what, if anything can keep insulin costs down.
"I’m in favor of a lot of that stuff. But I’m also cautiously optimistic to see what the results of some to these programs and bills and conversations that are going on – what the results actually lead to," Thrailkill said, adding that he wants pharmaceutical companies to have the money to continue to improve synthetic insulin.
Nevada enacted a similar law in 2017 that advocates describe as groundbreaking. The question is whether Georgia will follow suit in the weeks before the General Assembly adjourns this spring.