Soaring prices of insulin appears to be putting diabetes patients at risk
It is no secret that the price of insulin in the United States is rocketing, and no one seems to be able to put their finger on the reason why.
Insulin is not a drug that helps people get by, or makes their lives a little bit easier. It is, in fact, a drug that is necessary for survival, and quite simply, without it, people with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2 diabetes will die.
That some people are reportedly having to ration out their insulin because it has become too expensive is incredibly worrying, and an issue that needs addressing. However, no one seems to be able to address it, as no one can pinpoint the reason it is rising in price.
In 2011-2013, it was reported that the price of wholesale insulin rose by up to 62 per cent. From 2013 to 2015, the rise continued, and is said to have reached as high as 107 per cent. This is according to Doctor Mayer Davidson, from the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, who has worked on tracking the price rises of this critical medicine.
“People who paid $200 or less are now getting bills of $400, $500 and even more for the same amount of insulin. Meanwhile, most insurance is paying less for medications and the required co-pays are higher, so it is a double whammy that prevents the patient from getting the insulin to stay alive,” said Susan Pierce, a diabetes educator at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill Hospital.
Of course, the best results with insulin comes from precise administering at the times that it is needed and keeping blood sugar levels under control. This becomes harder, if not impossible, when people are having trouble affording insulin.
If insulin-treated diabetes is not managed correctly, complications can arise from having high blood sugar levels, including amputation, coma, and even death. With the human and economic cost of these complications being so high, better diabetes management and prevention is essential.
Another healthcare professional campaigning for better insulin pricing, Doctor Irl Hirsch, asserted: “We are not talking about concierge medicine, or just fine-tuning insulin therapy or something that a patent can live without. We’re talking about survival. Don’t let anyone sugar-coat it.”
But why are the prices going up? The fingers of some of the campaigners seem to be pointing towards the pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) of the pharmaceutical companies.
These administrators, which are often third party, help to negotiate deals regarding prescription drugs. However, Hirsch, who is a former editor-in-chief of Clinical Diabetes, claimed that it is hard to see what deals the PBMs are charging. A lot of the negotiations are “backroom deals” and so the details in that area of the chain of insulin supply is unknown.
When compared to Europe and Canada, where there are closer restrictions on drug sellers, the insulin price hikes are non-existent when compared to the massive jumps seen in the US.
The key thing to remember is that real people are at the heart of this problem, and that those who are struggling need help, not to make a disease better, but to continue to survive.
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