Democratic senators demand answers on Novo Nordisk’s discontinued insulin

A trio of Democratic senators want Novo Nordisk to explain why it discontinued one of its long-acting insulin products after it announced a steep price cut on the medication.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) wrote to Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen and head of North American operations Doug Langa.

Last year, Novo Nordisk announced it would cut the prices of some of its insulin products, including cutting the price of Levemir by 65 percent. The price cuts were scheduled to go into effect beginning on Jan. 1, but Novo Nordisk announced in November that it would discontinue Levemir in the U.S. market.

The company cited manufacturing constraints, the availability of alternatives and issues with formularies impacting patient access as reason for the discontinuation. Formularies are lists of products that insurance plans will cover, which are determined by the companies’ review teams.

Levemir will be phased out of the U.S. by the end of 2024.

“Spending on insulin has tripled in the last ten years, and 17 percent of patients report rationing their insulin due to cost. Furthermore, access to affordable, in-demand biosimilar insulins will be further restricted by Novo Nordisk’s decision to discontinue Levemir, as discontinuation creates significant barriers to demonstrating biosimilarity without a sample to reference,” the senators wrote.

“With this in mind, we are alarmed by Novo Nordisk’s decision to discontinue Levemir before allowing the price reduction to go into effect, and are concerned that Novo Nordisk failed to take into consideration patient access to affordable, long-acting insulin substitutes prior to the discontinuation,” they added.

The lawmakers requested details regarding the formulary placement of Levemir and what Congress could to alleviate any issues; information on the supply chain constrains that Novo Nordisk cited; and what steps the company is taking to ensure patients on Levemir have access to a similar product with similar cost-sharing.

They also asked whether any manufacturers had expressed an interest in producing a biosimilar for Levemir and whether Novo Nordisk would help facilitate such a product’s introduction into the market.

Novo Nordisk did not immediately respond when reached for comment by The Hill.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.