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.

insulinupdatedOnly 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!

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Sanofi makes Lantus

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sanofiUSDiabetes/app_294219903985649

Twitter handle and feed: @sanofiUS and https://twitter.com/SanofiUS

Example Tweet:

Plz @sanofiUS, improve the health and well-being of Americans with #diabetes by reducing the cost of #insulin! #drugprices

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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

Example Tweet:

Plz @EliLillyCo, make life better for Americans with #diabetes by reducing the price of #insulin! #drugprices

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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

Example Tweet:

Plz @novonordiskus, if you truly have a passion for helping people, reduce the cost of #insulin! #diabetes #drugprices

 

 

 

 

 

11 Comments On “It’s time to tell pharma to stop jacking up insulin prices”

  1. Pingback: National group says insulin prices jeopardizing health of diabetics, urges consumer action - RxRights

  2. This month when I went to Walmart to get my insulin, I found that it had doubled in price. I didn’t even HAVE that much money left in my account. I have decided to stop taking insulin and trust God to take care of me. I have to. After paying my bills, I don’t have any left to buy insulin (Lantus)
    Now, you might ask: If you cannot afford insulin, how can you afford being on the internet? I am on earthlink dialup. Need I say more?
    Thank You
    Rissa Ann Rose

  3. I had found insulin available from Canada last year. Had to search a lot to find a pharmacy that will send to the U.S. When you look at the label you find it has a different name from that in U.S. but manufactured outside the U.S. as is the other insulin products. Same manufacturer with different name and sold for much less than in the U.S. Americans are victims of the corporations that are permitted by our government to charge anything they like. Only in America.

  4. Please tell us or share a link to where we can buy insulin from Canada? I am also in dire straits and can not afford insulin, after losing my wonderful insurance thanks to Obamacare!

  5. Please note: though there are many medications you can safely find for cheaper in Canada, we don’t recommend that Americans buy insulin from online pharmacies because insulin is a temperature sensitive product. The pharmacies have no way of ensuring that the product is kept cold during the long shipping process. We have tips on how to find a legitimate online pharmacy on our website (http://www.rxrights.org/tips-for-choosing-a-safe-online-pharmacy/) and we are currently running a campaign to pressure drug makers to reduce insulin prices (see article above). We encourage you to speak out on this issue. If enough people do, change will need to happen.

  6. I was getting my insulin from a mail order pharmacy. I don’t see what the difference would be. They ship it in coolers with ice packs.

  7. Price increases abound.

    My 90 supply of Humalog in Sep 2013
    cost $534. The same amount in July 2015 is $1161. Lantus was $451, now
    $670. Strips was $601 now $721. Thanks Express Scripts
    for holding the costs down. Needles when I started 16
    years ago, were free, now $100 per 90 days. This is why there will be
    no cure for Diabetes. They are making too much money on our condition
    to cure it.

  8. Im in the same boat here… apidra is what ive taken for 10 years but bc bs wont pay for it..even with prior auth! I pay 245.00 vial. I think they want us t1s to die. I really do. The lord is taking account of this travesty. This insulin price gouging is Greed on steroids

  9. Pingback: Update on Insulin Action - RxRights

  10. Flying to Mexico, You can buy Insulin for 90% less than the US.

  11. I pray all is well with you. This broke my heart to read. Please contact social services to see if they can help you.

Comments are closed.