“The value of insulin will increase as waistlines improve.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz on Twitter, March 31, 2022

At the finish of March, after the Home passed a bill that might cap the price of insulin at $35 per 30 days for insured customers, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted about why he voted in opposition to the laws.

“Insulin worth will increase have extra to do with elevated shopper demand than the dangerous conduct of Huge Pharma, which I’m fast to sentence,” Gaetz wrote.

He continued, in a 10-part Twitter thread, to supply weight reduction as a possible resolution to insulin prices quite than capping costs: “90-95% of folks with diabetes have kind 2 diabetes, which ‘may be prevented or delayed with wholesome life-style modifications, similar to shedding weight, maintaining a healthy diet meals, and being energetic.’ Arbitrary worth controls aren’t any substitute for particular person weight management. Since 2000, the quantity of diabetes circumstances in the U.S. has almost doubled. The demand for insulin has elevated and the requisite worth improve has adopted go well with. In different phrases, the worth of insulin will increase as waistlines improve.”

The tweet picked up consideration on social media and from news outlets, however we questioned whether or not there was any connection between demand for insulin and the rising price of the drug. One financial precept states that, for some merchandise, if demand will increase, costs will comply with.

Does that maintain true for insulin, a drug that hundreds of thousands of People must survive?

We reached out to Gaetz’s workplace to ask for the proof to again up his declare however obtained no response.

So we requested the specialists to elucidate what’s happening with insulin costs.

Sorts of Diabetes and Therapy

Insulin was first found in 1921 and patented two years later. The hormone is important for folks with Type 1 diabetes as a result of their pancreas not makes pure insulin, wanted to manage blood sugar. An especially excessive blood sugar stage may be lethal. These sufferers make up a few tenth of the complete quantity of folks with diabetes in the nation.

Some sufferers must inject insulin typically, a minimum of twice a day.

The bulk of folks with diabetes, nevertheless, have Type 2, which has been linked to weight achieve. Extra weight might intrude with the physique’s capacity to successfully use insulin, resulting in excessive blood sugar ranges.

“As weight problems will increase, diabetes will increase as effectively,” stated Dr. Paresh Dandona, a professor at the College at Buffalo’s medical college who research diabetes.

However many of these sufferers usually are not prescribed insulin as a remedy. Round 30% of folks with Sort 2 diabetes use insulin when different drug choices usually are not profitable in treating the illness, Dandona stated. For some Sort 2 sufferers, exercising and a more healthy eating regimen “might assist scale back the insulin dose, but it surely doesn’t get rid of its use.”

How Insulin Drug Pricing Works

Drug pricing specialists stated there’s no query that insulin’s record worth (the quantity charged to customers and their well being plans) has risen over the previous decade. A 2020 study discovered that the record worth of insulin merchandise elevated by 262% from 2007 to 2018, whereas a 2021 study discovered that from 2014 to 2018 the record worth of insulin merchandise elevated by 40%.

Is there a motive the worth has ballooned?

Probably not, stated the specialists, besides that the producers and different stakeholders profit from larger record costs. For instance, pharmacy profit managers — which handle prescription drug advantages on behalf of well being plans — are paid primarily based on the rebate quantity they get from insulin producers. If they will negotiate a extra favorable spot for a producer’s insulin on a drug formulary record (a plan’s record of lined medication), they obtain a much bigger rebate. Insurance coverage corporations additionally profit from larger costs, as a result of they accumulate the next quantity from a affected person’s portion of price sharing and can even reap rebates from the pharmacy profit managers. As well as, customers have little bargaining energy as a result of insulin is usually a vital buy.

“The insulin producers set costs primarily based on no matter the market will bear, not primarily based on demand for his or her merchandise,” stated Dr. Jing Luo, an assistant professor of medication at the College of Pittsburgh whose analysis focuses on drug pricing and use.

Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical business disagrees with this evaluation. PhRMA, the commerce business group representing pharmaceutical corporations, advised KHN that whereas it acknowledges drug producers are answerable for elevating the record worth of insulin, the producers aren’t reaping the advantages of the worth improve. As an alternative, producers are pressured to boost the record costs to supply greater reductions and rebates to the insurers and pharmacy profit managers. However PhRMA argues that producers usually are not receiving larger earnings as a result of of larger record costs.

“Rebates decrease what well being plans pay for insulins by roughly 84% and these financial savings must be shared with sufferers at the pharmacy,” stated Brian Newell, a spokesperson for PhRMA. “Till we repair this damaged system, sufferers will proceed to face excessive prices for insulin.”

Though excessive demand, based on financial ideas, may cause costs to rise as a result of it’s tough to push out sufficient of a product, manufacturing isn’t a difficulty with insulin as a result of it’s straightforward to ramp up provides and there’s not a set quantity of insulin that may be made, stated Matthew Fiedler, a fellow at the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Well being Coverage. So demand for insulin shouldn’t have an effect on costs.

“Manufacturing prices are unlikely to alter very a lot when extra folks purchase insulin since manufacturing may be scaled up pretty simply, a minimum of in the future,” Fiedler wrote in an e mail. “In reality, manufacturing prices might conceivably fall when extra folks purchase insulin if producers reply by growing extra environment friendly manufacturing strategies.”

At the finish of the day, the record worth for insulin is about by the producers, and so they together with each participant in the drug pricing system profit from larger costs, apart from the customers who must buy it to outlive, stated the specialists.

“As we’re all conscious, elevated demand does certainly drive up costs,” stated Luo. “That is very true for commodities. Sadly, brand-name pharmaceuticals like insulin are priced far otherwise than easy commodities.”

Would Weight Loss Assist Cut back Insulin Costs?

In his Twitter thread, Gaetz stated that diabetes circumstances have nearly doubled since 2000. That’s true.

In response to knowledge from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, about 12 million Americans have been identified with diabetes in 2000. In 2018, the annual quantity of new diagnoses had risen to about 27 million.

However a diabetes prognosis just isn’t at all times associated to an individual’s weight or total well being, particularly for these with Sort 1 diabetes, who’re depending on insulin remedy for all times.

“In reality, these with Sort 1 diabetes are normally very skinny,” stated Dr. Eron Manusov, a professor in the medical college at the College of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

As well as, most individuals with diabetes have Sort 2, which is linked to weight achieve however not at all times handled with insulin.

Different elements can play a job in the danger of growing Sort 2 diabetes, similar to genetics, life-style, and age, Manusov stated.

Assuaging and treating diabetes just isn’t so simple as consuming more healthy and exercising extra, Dandona stated. These elements might “assist management diabetes and it might scale back the insulin dose, but it surely doesn’t get rid of its use,” he stated.

If everybody ate the identical nutritious diet and exercised the identical quantity, some folks would nonetheless develop into diabetic as a result of an individual’s genes and the setting they grew up in matter, he added.

“To count on that by some means magically insulin necessities will vanish if sufferers drop a few pounds is actually speaking in cuckoo land,” Dandona stated.

The specialists concluded that whereas each insulin record costs and diabetes circumstances have risen alongside the comparatively identical timeline, they’re not associated.

“Whereas larger weight problems charges have possible elevated diabetes prevalence, it’s uncertain that this has had a lot impact on insulin costs,” stated Fiedler, the well being economist. “Additionally, clearly none of that is to say that lowering weight problems or lowering diabetes is a nasty factor. It simply doesn’t have a lot to do with insulin costs a method or the different.”

How Is Congress Addressing Insulin Costs?

The Home invoice would cap the price of insulin at $35 per 30 days for people who’ve non-public insurance coverage or for these on Medicare. Nevertheless, the invoice does nothing to assist the uninsured who want insulin.

Democrats unanimously supported the laws, as did 12 Republicans. However there was important opposition, with 193 Republicans voting in opposition to it, together with Gaetz.

The invoice now goes to the Senate, the place members are contemplating different methods to manage insulin costs. Details are in the works.

Our Ruling

Gaetz stated the motive for the rising price of insulin was as a result of extra folks have been being identified with diabetes, thus rising demand for the merchandise. And he pegged that rise in diabetes circumstances to the improve in the quantity of people who find themselves chubby in the U.S.

Well being economists and diabetes specialists advised us that although Gaetz is correct that diabetes circumstances are on the rise, his total level just isn’t correct. His assertion is predicated on a cause-and-effect argument that doesn’t exist.

They stated the improve in insulin costs just isn’t tied to nice demand for insulin or to any manufacturing issues that strain creates.

As well as, though the rising costs come as extra circumstances of weight problems are reported, medical specialists stated they aren’t essentially associated. Many people who find themselves chubby and develop Sort 2 diabetes usually are not handled with insulin and the specialists level out that many different elements assist decide whether or not a person will develop diabetes.

We price this assertion False.


Cellphone calls with Dr. Paresh Dandona, a distinguished professor at the Jacobs Faculty of Drugs & Biomedical Sciences, State College of New York at Buffalo, April 13 and 19, 2022

Cellphone calls with Dr. Eron Manusov, household medication doctor at UT Well being Rio Grande Valley, April 13 and 19, 2022

E mail interview with Matthew Fiedler, fellow at the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Well being Coverage, April 15, 2022

E mail interview with Dr. Jing Luo, assistant professor of medication at the College of Pittsburgh, April 15, 2022

E mail interview with Inmaculada Hernandez, affiliate professor in the division of medical pharmacy at the College of California-San Diego, April 14, 2022

Video interview with Karen Van Nuys, government director of the Worth of Life Sciences Innovation Undertaking at the College of Southern California Leonard D. Schaeffer Middle for Well being Coverage & Economics, April 12, 2022

E mail interview with Benedic Ippolito, senior fellow in financial coverage research at the American Enterprise Institute, April 12, 2022

E mail interview with Stacie Dusetzina, affiliate professor of well being coverage at Vanderbilt College, April 12, 2022

E mail interview with Dr. Kasia Lipska, affiliate professor of medication at the Yale Faculty of Drugs, April 19, 2022

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, National and State Diabetes Trends, accessed April 18, 2022

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, “Long-Term Trends in Diabetes,” April 2017

Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, Hispanic or Latino People and Type 2 Diabetes, accessed April 18, 2022

Nationwide Institutes of Well being, “What Is Diabetes?” accessed April 20, 2022

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s Twitter thread, March 31, 2022

Congress.gov, abstract of HR 6833 — Affordable Insulin Now Act, 117th Congress (2021-2022)

JAMA, “Changes in List Prices, Net Prices, and Discounts for Branded Drugs in the US, 2007-2018,” March 3, 2020

JAMA, “Estimation of the Share of Net Expenditures on Insulin Captured by US Manufacturers, Wholesalers, Pharmacy Benefit Managers, Pharmacies, and Health Plans From 2014 to 2018,” Nov. 5, 2021

USA As we speak, “Gaetz Justifies ‘No’ Vote on Insulin Cap Bill by Saying Diabetics Should Lose Weight,” April 5, 2022

Mom Jones, “Rep. Matt Gaetz Votes Against Capping Insulin Prices, Says People Should Just Lose Weight,” April 3, 2022

KFF, Health Tracking Poll — March 2022: Economic Concerns and Health Policy, the ACA, and Views of Long-Term Care Facilities, March 31, 2022

KHN, “Insulin Copay Cap Passes House Hurdle, But Senate Looks for a Broader Bill,” April 4, 2022

The New York Instances, “House Passes Bill to Limit Cost of Insulin to $35 a Month,” March 31, 2022

American Diabetes Affiliation, “Insulin & Other Injectables,” accessed April 18, 2022

American Academy of Household Physicians, “Diabetes: How to Use Insulin,” accessed April 18, 2022

Vox, “The Absurdly High Cost of Insulin, Explained,” Nov. 7, 2019

Victoria Knight: [email protected], @victoriaregisk

Colleen DeGuzman: [email protected], @acolleendg