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Schumer pushing legislation that would cap insulin costs for diabetics

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a bottle of insulin during a stop in Syracuse Wednesday
Ellen Abbott
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) holds a bottle of insulin during a stop in Syracuse Wednesday

The U.S. Senate will consider legislation in March that would cap the cost of insulin products for diabetics. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joined diabetes advocates in Syracuse Wednesday to urge for passage of the Affordable Insulin Now Act.

Kristen Aluzzi of Syracuse figures she pays about $10,000 a year out-of-pocket for life saving diabetes supplies. She’s been treated for type one diabetes for 30 years.

"When I go to fill my supplies, the pharmacist calls. ‘Hey, is this going to be okay? Your drugs are going to be $500 this month. Do you have enough to pay for it, do you want it broken up?’ These are questions they ask often, every time I fill it,” Aluzzi said.

It’s gotten to the point where some studies show the higher prices have led to one in four diabetics rationing insulin, which is key to keeping diabetics healthy.

"We know that control of blood sugar levels, which for many people with diabetes requires insulin therapy, can prevent or forestall loss of vision, kidney failure, amputation, heart attacks, strokes, and can greatly reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to crises related to high blood sugar,” said Ruth Weinstock, Medical Director of Joslin Diabetes Center in Syracuse.

Schumer’s answer to is the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap out-of-pocket costs of insulin products at $35 per month. Schumer says skyrocketing prescription drug costs as a whole are a big issue.

"The cost has gone up between 15 and 17 percent a year,” said Schumer. “It’s because our drug production and delivery system is so convoluted that it favors the companies and the distributors and not the patients. This bill favors the patients.”

Schumer said he feels this has the best chance of getting the 60 votes needed in the Senate to make it law.

"There’s a lot of partisanship in Washington these days,” he said. “But this bill actually has Republican as well as Democrat support. So we have a better chance of passing it."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.