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Why Is Insulin So Expensive In The Usa

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Insulin Price Hikes Tell Us A Lot About What's Wrong With Drug Pricing In America

Ballyscanlon/Getty Images When inventor Frederick Banting discovered insulin in 1923, he refused to put his name on the patent. He felt it was unethical for a doctor to profit off a discovery that would save lives. Banting’s co-inventors, James Collip and Charles Best, sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for a mere $1. They also wanted everyone who needed their medication to be able to afford it. Today Banting and colleagues would be spinning in their graves: Their drug, which many of America’s 30 million diabetics rely on, has become the latest poster child for pharmaceutical price gouging. On May 2, the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly raised the prices of its insulin medications, Humalog and Humulin, by 7.8 percent, according to newly obtained records from CNBC’s Meg Tirrell. And Lilly is not acting alone: Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, the only two other companies that manufacture insulin in the US, have been jacking up insulin prices recently too. Patients can now expect to pay upward of $400 per month for the century-old drug. Drug companies use the “cost of innovation” argument to justify the price increases — but critics don’t buy their reasoning, and Continue reading >>

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  1. Havis1938

    Friend of mine had family visit from USA and their daughter has diabetes so we were talking lot about it and I was really shocked when they told me they pay for insulin Humalog 100 units/mL 10ml vial almost 250USD without insurance.
    Well here in Slovakia I can have it for free - paid from public healthcare. I can also get all other diabetes supplies like pump, cartridges etc expect CGM for free.
    However the price that is public insurance paying instead of me for the same vial of Humalog is only 19€.
    You can even check it on this page: https://www.adc.sk/databazy/produkty/detail/humalog-100-u-ml-228842.html, where are all registered drugs here in Slovakia and on right side there is "Maximálna cena" which is maximum price for that vial.
    So I talked with few friends from other EU countries and in the most cases they have same final price +- 10€. And this is very big difference 250USD (228€) and 19€ for same vial.
    How can diabetics without insurance even afford to live in USA? I need at least 52-53 of these vials per year, so that would cost me 13000€ in USA and knowing your average wage, that would be 1/4 of your yearly average income just for insulin and not talking about other supplies.
    What is the reason behind this price difference?

  2. KerooSeta

    My opinion as an American and a U.S. history professor and not a medical or economics expert is that it's a result of a convergence of 1) Americans' general belief in free market capitalism, 2) a tradition of self-sufficiency that you can trace back to the Puritans, 3) long-standing rejection of socialism due to the 1920s Red Scare and the 1950s and onward Cold War, 4) relative economic prosperity following World War II, which meant that the people currently in charge of our country came of age at a time when things were very, very easy for most white people in our country, 5) a surge of power for the Republican Party that started in 1968 due to them making a pivot toward neoconservative politics, and 6) systemic discrimination and disenfranchisement of the poor along with a corporate media that keeps them uninformed and distracted.
    When you combine those things together, you get a country where the people in charge and a substantial number of voters lack empathy for anyone whose situation is worse than their own. If you have a good job like I do, your insulin might be as cheap as $10 a vial. These people have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who isn't so fortunate because our culture has taught them that they earned it all themselves. They don't understand how their tax dollars funded the schools and universities that helped them to get that job that gives them that insurance that makes that insulin so cheap or any of the other ways that the socialist side of our economy and government has been benefiting them their entire lives. To them, they are that rugged pioneer who carved out a bit of America through sheer hard work, and anyone who hasn't been able to do the same is just lazy.
    So, then companies can charge outrageous prices for drugs for the uninsured, because the insured will mostly not come to their defense. It's very frustrating...

  3. DeleteFromUsers

    Thanks for that description. Nice to hear something more in depth. It's as though America is currently riding its own coattails.

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