It’s back in the news… insulin pricing.
Helped along by a few well-meaning tweets from Senator Bernie Sanders, and maybe a little by the Epipen debacle by Mylan, insulin makers are finally coming to patients and discussing cost in more detail. See the excellent reporting by Mike Hoskins at Diabetes Mine HERE and HERE. It’s good that they’re at least talking about the ever rising cost of this drug. I mean, it’s good, right?
Excuse me while I yawn.
There are countless reasons why insulin costs as much as it does in the United States. One thing is certain: no one wants to break down those reasons for you in any kind of concrete terms. In the case of “pharmacy benefit managers”, they won’t even come to the table to discuss it at all. And in the case of Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi, they’re going to talk, but they’re not going to help you understand how much of the cost of insulin goes to them and how much goes to everyone else in this game of legal graft.
This story has really been in the news for some time… I even wrote about it a year and a half ago, after NPR did a story on it. Yet we’ve continued to see the cost of insulin soar higher.
The amount of revenue generated through insulin pricing is in the tens of billions of dollars per year, most of it coming from here in the United States. It’s more than enough for everyone with skin in the game to be rewarded handsomely. Those are just the facts. Like it or not, insulin is a cash cow for drug makers and “pharmacy benefit managers”. Sure, it costs a lot to produce or acquire, but with Type 1 patients especially, they will always have a market for their product. It’s a drug of necessity, not a drug of convenience. I’m not sure there’s any motivation at all for producers or “pharmacy benefit managers” to take action on price.
I hope the discussions that are taking place between the drug manufacturers and patient advocates result in positive steps that will reduce the overwhelming cost of insulin for patients who need it to survive. But I have to be honest: I’m feeling underwhelmed.
Look, discussion is good. It means we’re not forgotten, or worse, ignored. Discussion often leads to things, positive things. I do worry that, as an HIV/AIDS advocate once told a gathering of diabetes advocates, they’re just “checking our box”. Check the box, move on. I don’t think the attendees at the meeting in Washington in November are the type of advocates who will stand for just having their box checked. I hope not.
But for now, I’m in a wait and see mode. Respond to calls for response on insulin pricing issues offered by advocates. Contact my congressman and senators, maybe my state’s insurance commissioner. Spend too much for insulin. Rinse. Repeat.