Thursday, June 21, 2018

The High Cost of Being Diabetic

It seems to me, as I am sure to others, that the high cost of being a diabetic feels more like a punishment rather than feeling like inflation and the cost of research. I’m talking about Insulin, in particular.

Insulin was born as we know it today in 1921 when Dr. Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best found that grounding up and refining a dog’s pancreas into an injectable murky goo would reverse high glucose. In 1922, their concoction was given to a 14 year old boy who was dying of Type 1 diabetes. Within 24 hours, the child’s glucose levels returned to normal. The team gave their patent away because their vision was that it should be made widely available to help those in need. Such a noble move that showed complete compassion for their work. Dr. Banting consider insulin to be a gift...a gift of life.

Unfortunately, their vision is unseen by more than 50 million diabetes sufferers each day around the world. Imagine you need a life-saving drug and imagine that your inadequate or high-deductible insurance expects you to pay $200, $400 or even $800 per month for the required medication. Imagine worse, if you had no insurance at all. Sounds like a far cry from the inventors who had expectations that their life-saving discovery would not be used as a ploy for money.

Now before you make an assumption that I have no idea what I am talking about, let me tell you first that I do, in fact, have a high deductible insurance plan that until I meet the deductible, expects me to pay $470/month for insulin in vial form or $660/month for the insulin in KwikPen form. The reality is that other than diabetes, I am not a very sickly person. I do not have a need to see a doctor often and I do not need batteries of tests so in any given calendar year, I cannot meet my deductible. So it is as unrealistic for me to find the money to pay these rates as it is to meet my deductible. These high deductible plans are waved in front of us to peddle their lower monthly premiums. Of course, because of the circumstances of society today, we knowingly take the plan because it has become more and more difficult to live from paycheck to paycheck. And many families struggle to make the decision each month to pay for food or insulin, rent or insulin, life or death.

Why is this drug so high? Because two or three company hold the patents; The patents that were given away freely by the inventors. And the long story short is that each time they make small advances or changes to the drug, they apply to renew the patent. Meanwhile, this keeps other companies or startups from manufacturing and selling less expensive alternatives or what we call generics. Plus most of the insulin today is analog, meaning it is synthetic and no longer coming from cattle or any other animals.

Incidentally, Eli Lilly Company who manufactures Humalog and Trulicity, are expecting 2018 revenues of $23 to $23.5 BILLION. Think about that as I do when I stress each day figuring out how I will best stay alive and looking for affordable insulin. That’s ONE of the three companies who hold all the cards in this game.

So meanwhile after strenuous research and double and triple checks, I’ve decided to try my luck with a Canadian pharmacy. This is not a move I took lightly because I believe in buying American. However, I’m also completely finished with placing my life into Eli Lilly’s grubby paws and if I have to go outside the United States to purchase medications then so be it.

So the question remains, how do the people at Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi sleep at night knowing that they run the table on a drug given freely as a gift of life and they profit from it while others die because it is ever out of their reach? I know I couldn’t. Until we rise up together and make a stand against these companies, they will remain in control of whether you live or you die. Maybe it’s not diabetes for you. Maybe it’s some other horrible disease and what if suddenly the one medication that would keep you alive became too expensive for you to have. Think about that.


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