It’s time to tell pharma to stop jacking up insulin prices
RxRights doesn’t normally focus on a specific medication or a particular disease. But we wrote an article back in 2013 about the rising cost of insulin. And it is, by far, the most-read blog post we have ever written. Since it continues to garner comments each week from diabetics struggling to afford their needed medication, we decided to mobilize our supporters to do something about this issue. We urge diabetics and concerned citizens alike to take action.
Chances are, you know someone with diabetes—a friend, family member or colleague. Close to 29 million Americans have the disease—that’s 1 in every 11 people. If you include medical expenses and lost wages, it’s estimated that diabetes costs our country $245 billion per year. Not only that, the cost of managing the disease has doubled in the last two decades—and much of that can be attributed to rising drug costs.
Before effective treatments were discovered, diabetes had devastating and ultimately deadly consequences. Thanks to the discovery of insulin, quality of life and survival rates for diabetics have vastly improved. But diabetes is still the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. We have to wonder if some of these deaths could be prevented if insulin was more affordable.
New and improved formulations of the insulin allow drug companies to continue patenting new versions of the hormone and increasing the price accordingly. Ironically, when insulin was discovered by Fred Banting and Charles Best in 1921, they sold the patent for $1 to help enable the breakthrough drug achieve quick and wide availability.
Only three companies—Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi—supply all of the insulin that’s sold in the United States, which gives them a near-monopoly. Sanofi raised the price of its Lantus insulin twice in 2013, increasing the cost by up to 15 percent. Novo Nordisk also hiked prices. Patents on some popular insulin formulas have started expiring, which often leads to price increases as companies try to squeeze as much profit as possible from their branded drugs before generic competition enters the market.
In the meantime, we continue to hear heartbreaking stories from diabetics, like this one:
“This is only February and I have already reached “the gap” or “donut hole,” as my insurance company explains. The reason? Insulin. My insulin, Humalog and Lantus costs $1800 per month without insurance. I am on Medicare and my Social Security is less than this amount. I sat down and cried this afternoon when I discovered why my insulin was not covered. I cannot afford it and am in despair. What do people do?”
We also hear about the extreme and sometimes shocking measures people take in order to maintain access to their life-saving medication. One person recently made a comment on our blog post that truly alarmed us. “I’m seriously considering dog insulin (Vetsulin: at $50 per vial). Many think I’m joking but I’d rather be slightly uncomfortable than comatose or dead.”
We have spent some time contacting legislators about this issue. Their suggestion? Tell consumers to put pressure on drug companies. So, we gathered the pertinent contact information for you. We urge you to contact drug makers. Ask them, “Why does your medicine cost so much?” If you use insulin, tell your personal stories for added impact.
In addition to emailing a message to the company (CEO email addresses aren’t publicly available so we are emailing media and public affairs folks and asking them to forward the message on), you can Tweet or post to the company’s Facebook pages. Social media is a very direct way to contact a company. Since it’s a public format, it’s often useful in forcing a response. Please let us know in the comment section below what you hear back!
Sanofi makes Lantus
Twitter handle and feed: @sanofiUS and https://twitter.com/SanofiUS
Plz @sanofiUS, improve the health and well-being of Americans with #diabetes by reducing the cost of #insulin! #drugprices
Eli Lilly makes Humulin and Humalog
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/elilillyandco It doesn’t appear that they allow people to post to their page but you can comment on what they post.
Twitter handle and feed: @EliLillyCo and https://twitter.com/EliLillyCo
Plz @EliLillyCo, make life better for Americans with #diabetes by reducing the price of #insulin! #drugprices
Novo Nordisk makes Levemir and Novolog
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/novonordisk They specify that the page isn’t for U.S. audiences or intended for discussion so don’t be surprised if your comments are removed.
Twitter handle and feed: @novonordiskus and https://twitter.com/novonordiskus
Plz @novonordiskus, if you truly have a passion for helping people, reduce the cost of #insulin! #diabetes #drugprices