Diabetic Supplies: The Rising Costs of Life-saving Medicine
In the United States, diabetic supplies, specifically insulin, have become so expensive that some diabetic patients cannot afford them. Today we’re going to look at the reasons for this. Read on to learn more.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Diabetes is the diagnosis you receive when your body either does not produce insulin at all (type 1 diabetes) or does not produce enough or use the insulin it produces properly (type 2 diabetes).
The only way to help this is by taking insulin injections. People with type 1 diabetes will die without these injections.
People with type 2 diabetes can take oral medications to help their bodies use the insulin they produce in a more efficient manner. They may also need to take insulin injections.
The bottom line is, insulin is a medication millions of people need to sustain basic life. To learn more about the treatment of diabetes, check out my other blog HERE.
History of Insulin
Insulin was discovered in 1921. The original patent was held by the University of Toronto. They paid $1 for it. The intent was to prevent anyone from getting the patent and charging a ton of money for it. The men who discovered it never intended it to be a “profitable monopoly.”
Drug companies were able to use the formula for insulin without paying royalties. The intent was that they would not have to charge high prices if they did not have to pay high prices.
This backfired, because the drug companies were able to make a higher profit the higher they raised the prices, with no change in what they were paying.
The cost to manufacture insulin is more than many other drugs. Insulin is made using bacteria and the DNA amino acid sequence that makes insulin.
However, a confounding factor is that the manufacturers of insulin are known to vigorously protect their formulas from other companies that would make “generic” forms.
Insurance companies will often switch to a cheaper generic brand when it becomes available. Patients must then choose the generic brand or pay full price for their usual insulin regimen.
Unfortunately, when insulin patents expire and generic (called “biosimilar” formulas) become available, they are not much cheaper. Furthermore, due to the biologic element of insulin, not all insulins work the same, even from vial to vial of the same type of insulin.
This can mean patients are paying more than $500 a month just for insulin. This is just so they can LIVE. That doesn’t include other diabetic supplies such as blood glucose test strips or syringes required to take the insulin.
This results in patients rationing out their insulin so they don’t have to pay as much. According to a study presented at an American Diabetes Association conference,
“the cost of insulin results in nearly 25 percent of patients not taking insulin as they should. "Self-rationing" of insulin by patients can result in serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as blindness, loss of limbs, kidney failure and even death. Many patients are going to pharmacies only to find out that they must pay hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars for insulin.”
What Can We Do to Change This?
Write to your congressperson, write to the pharmaceutical companies. Talk to your insurance company. GET the Affordable Care Act to actually be AFFORDABLE. Spread awareness of this issue!
There is no way for type 1 diabetic patients to avoid using insulin, so we need to make sure they can get it without having to spend their entire life’s savings.