Picture this: you’re living in a community in which most people have running water, except for you. You need water to survive, but when you go to the store to try to buy it, they charge you $300 for a gallon, which may only last you a week. You’d go to another store, but they are now all charging the same price.
What do you do?
This is not a hypothetical, doomsday scenario. For type 1 diabetics and others who depend on insulin to survive, insulin is as necessary as water, and this is the state of drug pricing in America.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your body starts attacking your pancreas, the organ that regulates blood sugar, until it no longer produces the insulin your cells need to take in energy. Within days or even hours of being without insulin, Type 1 diabetics can die. Type 1 diabetes affects 1.25 million Americans; as some Type 2 diabetics require insulin as well, an estimated 7.4 million Americans rely on insulin.
When insulin was discovered nearly 100 years ago, the patent was sold to the University of Toronto for $1, because the researchers knew how many lives it could save. Yet today a vial of insulin, for which there are a few varieties sold primarily via 3 pharmaceutical companies, costs nearly $300 per vial; the average diabetic needs 3 vials a month – and that’s hoping that one of the glass vials doesn’t break or contain an impotent batch. This is not an issue of inflation; a vial costs approximately $6 to manufacture, and sells for about $40 across the border in Canada. Strangely, the pricing at each company increases in lockstep. The fact that these companies are now coming out with “half-priced” insulin seemingly overnight in response to backlash just proves that the price has little to do with reasonable profit margins. And don’t get me started on Walmart insulin.
My name is Melissa, and I’m a Type 1 diabetic. I haven’t had a functioning pancreas in 20 years. I have a management-level job; I have a graduate degree; I live independently; I have insurance. Yet due to high deductibles, even with insurance I paid the list price for insulin, and started trying to ration. I still spent an additional $8,000 this year after my monthly premiums on insulin and the diabetic supplies I need to take it and monitor my blood sugar; coupled with cost of living, I not only didn’t save any money, but dipped into my meager savings. I’m contemplating moving back in with my parents so that I can plan for a future outside of what insulin gives me daily, and I’m lucky that I even have a support system on which to rely. Others are forced to ration so much that they risk long-term health complications and even death.
So I can’t help but wonder: Norvo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly- why are you gouging the cost of my water? And to all our government representatives- why are you letting them?
To learn more about the insulin-pricing crisis or to get involved, visit https://www.t1international.com/usa/