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Rep. Lauren Underwood’s legislation may make cheaper, generic insulin available sooner.

More than seven million Americans rely on insulin to survive, but the skyrocketing cost of the medication has made it increasingly difficult for diabetics to afford the essential medicine.

Help may be on the way though, thanks to legislation from Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) that was signed into law in December. 

Underwood says her Lower Insulin Costs Now Act will help make cheaper, generic insulin available sooner, providing a financial lifeline to struggling patients. 

The law will allow the FDA to continue to review applications for generic insulin beyond the prior March 2020 cutoff date, creating access to new treatments that can lower the cost of insulin.

Insulin costs have tripled over the past decade. By 2016, as many as one in four diabetics have rationed or altogether skipped insulin because of rising costs, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A chart from Business Insider shows just how dramatically things have changed in the past decade. 

The long-term price increases are even more staggering. Since 1996, the cost of a one-month supply of Eli Lilly’s insulin treatment, Humalog, has increased by 1,200 percent from $21 to $275 per month. 

“Over the past two decades, the cost of insulin has skyrocketed—it’s unaffordable. I’ve heard from countless families in our community about the hard decisions they make to afford their insulin, including rationing their supply or going without. This is unacceptable,” Underwood said in a statement.  

Approximately 1.3 million Illinoisans live with type I or type II diabetes and it is the seventh leading cause of death in both the state and the country, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Underwood introduced the bipartisan legislation alongside Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Mike Kelly (R-PA).

“There isn’t a person I won’t work with to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and I’m thrilled my colleagues in Congress and the President supported this advancement toward making lower-cost, generic insulin available more quickly,” Underwood said.

Underwood’s legislation was passed into law just weeks after the Democrat-controlled House also passed a measure allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for dozens of prescription drugs, including insulin, which would lower costs for seniors on Medicare as well as non-seniors insured through private insurance companies.

On the state level, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill in November capping out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 for a 30-day supply in the state. The bill, which was modeled after a law in Colorado, is now on the desk of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), who has indicated he will sign it into law. 

Other states are considering similar measures and federal lawmakers continue to criticize pharmaceutical companies for their failure to seriously address the high cost of insulin, but other, tangible reform has proven elusive. 

The long-term consequences of Underwood’s legislation remain unclear, but her bill has already proven to be a rarity in at least one way: it was signed into law with bipartisan support in 2019.