Monday, July 1, 2019

Diabetes, Insulin & the Cost of "Living" in America

Needle for medicine, Metamora Herald
photo via https://www.needpix.com



It has been almost 100 years since the discovery of insulin and it supplementing and saving the lives of millions of people. The young surgeon Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best worked on Banting's theory that if insulin could be isolated and extracted, it could be used to treat diabetes. Many years and test dogs later, that theory was proven to be correct. This was a huge medical breakthrough because before this discovery was made, diabetes was a death sentence. Fortunately, Banting and Best thought it should be available for everyone, so they sold the patent to the University of Toronto for one dollar. According to the Canadian Encyclopaedia: "Arguably one of Canada’s greatest contributions in the area of medical research, the discovery of insulin completely transformed the treatment of diabetes, saving millions of lives worldwide." [2]

About 1.2 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin to survive.
Type 2 diabetes, a growing problem linked to the obesity epidemic, is far more common, affecting nearly 30 million people in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.
While type 2 diabetes is treated with a variety of other medicines, those patients may also eventually become dependent on insulin as the disease progresses. [1] "Insulin is not an optional medication,” says Taylor, who formerly worked for Eli Lilly and the National Institutes of Health. “People have to buy insulin no matter what the cost is. That gives a lot of strength to the people selling insulin.”[3]

Would you be surprised to find out that the cost of insulin has doubled since 2012? The pharmaceutical companies are complaining that their net profits are not on the rise due to having to pay for rebates to insurance companies and help with the costs of the consumer. Yet, "Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, in his second year on the job, salary stayed the same at $1.4 million, while his stock awards—which made up the majority of his pay in 2017 and 2018—grew slightly to $10.58 million. The CEO’s cash incentive pay took a big leap, however, to $3.6 million from $2.8 million in 2017. His pension value accounted for about $1.5 million, while “other compensation” came in flat at $84,000. All told, Ricks nabbed $17.23 million in 2018 compensation, up 9% over his first-year package of $15.85 million. He joined the company in 1996 and became CEO in January 2017."[4]

Wow, poor Rick only made $17.23 MILLION in compensation. How does he manage to get by on so little? Yes, I am sarcastic, but I am angry. So angry that the top officers in corporations like this rake in the cash and fire the actual manufacturing employees to save money. In the meantime, patients, not consumers, are rationing their vital medications because they can't afford them. What is more infuriating is that for some reason, our government hasn't fought hard enough for us to be able to negotiate for cheaper medications. Why? Other countries have successfully done that very thing, and people are alive and thriving.

Also, the FDA & the DEA have had laws passed that prevent us from being able to buy drugs from other countries. Some safety issues do come into play globally, but I think Canada has a progressive and knowledgeable "FDA" of their own. The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada, both of which the FDA said had similar practices as ours. So what is the problem then? In Canada, insulin costs $32. What's happening here?[2]



[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-diabetes-cost/u-s-insulin-costs-per-patient-nearly-doubled-from-2012-to-2016-study-idUSKCN1PG136
[2] https://www.treehugger.com/health/inventors-insulin-sold-their-patent-buck-why-it-so-expensive.html
[3] https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/50-states/2019/03/21/diabetes-insulin-costs-diabetics-drug-prices-increase/3196757002/
[4] https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/lilly-s-david-ricks-picks-up-9-raise-2018-to-17-2m
[5] https://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0801/p649.html
[6] https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-recognizes-canada-having-comparable-food-safety-system-us

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