Insulin costs draw statehouse scrutiny; Rep. Dylan Roberts to demand price transparency

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily
Dylan Roberts, here being sworn as the Representative for Eagle and Routt counties in Colorado's House of Representatives, will introduce a bill requiring transparency in insulin pricing. The cost of insulin has tripled.
Special to the Vail Daily

DENVER — Freshman Rep. Dylan Roberts hasn’t even started his first Colorado House session and has already introduced a bill that could help Colorado families struggling with diabetes and the cost of treating it.

Roberts’ bill would require transparency about insulin pricing from drug manufacturers.

Part of it is personal. Roberts’ little brother, Murphy, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10 in 2004. Murphy died last year after suffering a fall that resulted from a diabetic seizure.

“Our family learned to live with diabetes and how crucial insulin is to staying alive,” Roberts said.

Roberts has been assigned to the House Health and Insurance Committee for the 2018 legislative session, which starts Wednesday, Jan. 10.

“This bill will be one of several that I’ll sponsor to help address the skyrocketing cost of health care in the mountain region,” Roberts said.


Three major drug companies manufacture most of the insulin used in the United States: Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. All three were named in a federal lawsuit filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accusing them of raising prices in lockstep and conspiring to drive up insulin prices, while victimizing patients who are forced to pay a larger share of their health care costs. The companies told The New York Times that they have violated no laws.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that the price of insulin nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013. A vial of insulin costs $250, and patients can spend $900 a month. Five years ago, that same vial cost $125, and 20 years ago it cost $20, Roberts said. The product has not changed essentially, just the price, up 45 percent in the past three years, Roberts said.

“If you’re going to raise your prices, you need to explain why,” Roberts said.

Roberts said it’s not a price-control measure. It’s a transparency measure.

“If the cost of your product increases more than the price of inflation, tell us what’s going into that price increase,” Roberts said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 10 percent of Coloradans have diabetes,

Roberts said he is meeting with Eli Lilly, doctors, pharmacy benefit managers and patients and hopes to have bipartisan support for the bill.