Lawmakers, FDA push for more insulin options, cheaper prices

As the number of diabetes cases around the world continues to soar, and with the market facing a potential shortage of insulin treatment in years to come, two lawmakers have called upon the government to help create more competition, more insulin and lower prices.

Two representatives have reached across the aisle in an effort to inject more urgency in getting more viable insulin options, and subsequently more supply for the increasing demand.

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY), the co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, lauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday for its efforts in driving more insulin products and suppliers into a big market.

"The FDA has taken an important step to bring new insulin producers to market and address the dramatic insulin price increases. Insulin remains essential for millions of diabetes patients, and it must remain accessible and affordable for every one of them," the Diabetes Caucus co-chairs said in a statement. "As we have investigated issues surrounding insulin prices, we specifically called for this action, and we commend FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for his attention and follow-through."

DeGette commended Gottlieb in the FDA's endeavor to develop biosimilar insulin, which is different from generic insulins in that they'll contain certain insulin patents not found in generic brands. But, like generics, they'll be much cheaper than name-brand insulin.

The #FDA looks forward to continuing to work with Rep DeGette and Rep Reed to advance policies that promote patient access to lifesaving insulins and to advance innovation and patient care for those with diabetes.

— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) December 12, 2018

According to DeGette's webpage, there are no current biosimilar insulin products on the market right now. DeGette and Reed wrote to the FDA in September 2017 announcing the need of urgency for biosimilar insulin to hit the market. The lawmakers cited a need for cheaper alternatives that were still highly-effective, and an increased market to drive down prices.

The FDA said biosimilar drugs are just like reference drugs with the same effects, but they'll merely have the cost of generics.

Insulin is used to treat people with Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes. The purpose is to help create insulin when the body is having trouble doing it, like Type-2 patients, or when someone's pancreas can't produce insulin at all, or Type-1, otherwise known as insulin-dependent.

Insulin production helps reduce kidney problems, amputation, blindness and heart failure in patients. Diabetes patients differ, however, when it comes to lack of insulin. Those who are typically overweight will typically gain more weight, while those with average or skinny body frames can drastically lose weight.

The number of diabetes cases, for both Type-1 and Type-2, have not just increased through the years, but it's also expected to continue soaring another 20 percent over the next 10-15 years. Whereas the number of cases in 2018 is 406 million, it's expected to be more than 510 million by 2030.

There are many different types of insulin for patients. Some take it by self-injection with a syringe, some use a pen dialed to a set amount and some use an insulin pump, which is usually attached to the stomach. Furthermore, there are different insulins that enter a body's system: rapid-acting, short-acting, long-acting and intermediate-acting.

Then again, many doctors claim Type-2 diabetes cases could sharply drop if their patients followed a more strenuous diet and exercise plan.