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FACT CHECK: Trump’s Track Record On Insulin Shows Nothing But Failure

By June 11, 2024No Comments

While Drug Prices Rose Under Former President Trump, President Biden Is Lowering Drug Prices and Capping the Price of Insulin At $35 Per Month

Last week, former President Trump attempted to take credit for lower insulin prices during the Biden-Harris administration. We’ve heard it all before: President Trump has spent years claiming he will lower the cost of prescription drugs. In reality, Trump and his MAGA allies did everything possible to protect the rigged system for drug companies during his term in office. In 2017, America’s largest drug companies got a huge tax break from the Trump tax bill, and they have continued to line the pockets of shareholders and CEOs while raising prices for everyday Americans. Drug prices and profits soared under Trump while he fought to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its requirement that insurance companies cover prescription drugs in court and in Congress. Trump opposed negotiating lower drug prices, and after he left office, every Republican in Congress voted against the Inflation Reduction Act, the landmark legislation that finally gave Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices and capped the cost of insulin at $35 per month for people on Medicare. 

Trump had four years to take action on drug prices, but instead, he did nothing and now he’ll lie and say anything to cover up his failures. In reality, drug prices soared under Trump. During his first year in office, the list prices of 20 of the top 25 drugs covered by Medicare Part D increased between three and nine times the rate of inflation, according to KFF. AARP found that annual drug costs for the drugs most commonly used by seniors rose 5.8 percent in 2018, more than twice the rate of inflation. Likewise, drug prices increased an average of 21 percent in 2019 and rose faster than inflation in 2020. Further, Trump put profits over people and gave billions in tax breaks to drug and health insurance companies and executives, signing a $1.5 trillion tax bill disproportionately benefiting the wealthy and reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. 

FACT CHECK: No, Insulin Was Not “As Cheap As Water” During The Trump Administration. The former president has told lie after lie to cover up his abysmal health care record. During Trump’s State of the Union Address in February 2020, he falsely claimed that the cost of prescription drugs fell for the first time in 51 years under his administration, and at the September 2020 presidential debate, Trump claimed he had lowered drug costs by “80 or 90 percent” and that insulin was “as cheap as water.” Independent fact-checkers have seen right through Trump’s absurd lies and called him out:

  • STAT: “In reality, insulin still retails for roughly $300 a vial. Most patients with diabetes need two to three vials per month, and some can require much more.”
  • The Washington Post: “Studies we found show drug prices have not declined, especially when it comes to branded drugs.” 
  • Associated Press: “[I]n 2018, spending on prescription drugs was one of the main factors behind a 4.5% increase in U.S. health spending. Spending on prescription drugs grew much faster than in 2017, according to the study.”
  • Associated Press: “There were 4,412 brand-name drug price increases and 46 price cuts, a ratio of 96 to 1” in the first seven months of 2018 alone.
  • CBS News: “So far in 2019, more than 3,400 drugs have boosted their prices, a 17% increase compared with the roughly 2,900 drug price increases at the same time in 2018…The average price hike for those 3,400 drugs stands at 10.5%, or about 5 times the rate of inflation, the study found. About 41 drugs have boosted their prices by more than 100%.”
  • The Washington Post, ‘Health 202’: “List prices for branded drugs grew 3.3 percent in this year’s first quarter, compared with 6.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018.”
  • Politico: “Prescription drug prices jumped 10.5 percent over the past six months, more slowly than during the same period last year but still four times faster than inflation, despite increasing pressure on drugmakers from the Trump administration and Congress.”
  • The New York Times: “This is misleading. It is true that, for a portion of last year, the Consumer Price Index for drugs declined. But that measure does not include all prescription drugs. (And it has since risen again.)”

Under Trump, Drug Companies Engaged In The Dangerous Practice Of Price-Gouging — Pursuing Massive Profits To The Detriment Of People Who Need Their Medication To Survive. During the Trump administration, drug companies showed no restraint, price gouging drug prices year after year. A 2019 report from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review found that price hikes on seven prominent drugs cost Americans more than $5 billion over two years. The cost of the four most popular types of insulin has tripled over the past decade, with the average price per month rising to $450 in 2016. A report found that as many as one in four of the 7.5 million Americans dependent on insulin were skipping or skimping on doses due to rising costs.

Trump and MAGA Republicans Refused To Let Medicare Negotiate For Lower Drug Prices. Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans have long supported allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans refused to let Medicare negotiate drug prices, opposing the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, which would have lowered the cost of prescription drug prices by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for insulin, new and existing single-source brand-name drugs without generics, the top drugs expensed through Medicare and Medicare Advantage and would have set price ceilings at 120 percent of the average price in similar countries or 85 percent of the price for domestic manufacturers.

Trump’s Actions In Office Did Little To Nothing To Lower Drug Prices, Fell Far Short Of His Grandiose Promises. During his first term, Trump repeatedly promised that he would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate drug prices directly with suppliers, but after meeting with drug company executives early in 2017, Trump abandoned that pledge, calling it “price fixing” that would hurt “smaller, younger companies.” In 2018, Trump released a “blueprint” to lower drug prices, but the main proposals were put on hold or blocked by the courts. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Trump’s rule to require drugmakers to disclose prices in television ads. Trump also announced that drug makers agreed to participate in a voluntary program to limit insulin costs for certain Medicare beneficiaries, which officials acknowledged could actually result in higher premiums for beneficiaries and taxpayers. Trump signed four executive orders aimed at reducing drug costs, but experts pointed out that the measures were very limited and none were immediately enforceable. Big drug company CEOs themselves said they were “not expecting any impact” from the toothless executive orders. 

And now, Trump and MAGA Republicans Want To Roll Back The Achievements Of The Inflation Reduction Act. President Biden and Democrats in Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022, finally giving Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices and capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month for seniors. Every single Republican in Congress voted against this landmark legislation. Among the first ten drugs selected for negotiation are four diabetes medications, Januvia, Jardiance, Farxiga, and Fiasp/NovoLog, which are collectively used by more than 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries. U.S. patients pay as much as 20 times more than patients in other high-income countries like Canada, Switzerland, France, and Australia for some of these diabetes medications. In a second term, Trump could take steps to weaken the law and has expressed enthusiasm for repealing it altogether. If Trump and MAGA Republicans got their way:

  • GONE: $35 monthly insulin cap for the 1.5 million Americans on Medicare who use insulin.
  • GONE: Medicare’s power to negotiate lower prices for the most popular and expensive prescription drugs – including diabetes medications taken by more than 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries, Januvia, Jardiance, Farxiga, and Fiasp/NovoLog.
  • GONE: Protections from drug company price hikes through increased inflation rebates.
  • GONE: Medicare beneficiaries’ prescription drug savings, including a $2,000 annual out-of-pocket cap and free recommended vaccinations.