Tag Archives: insulin pricing

Candid talk on drug pricing.

When you read stories about the high cost of prescription drugs, including insulin, the initial reaction is to wonder how companies can be so heartless when it comes to patients living with chronic conditions who need those drugs.

Though we wonder why, our questions are generally rhetorical in nature. Because we know why. The dichotomy comes down to this: patients want, and often need, to pay as little as possible for drugs that will keep them alive. Companies, on the other hand, will do just about anything to make the next quarterly earnings report look good. When you’re looking at it from either perspective, you can understand each reaction, right?

I can understand it, but I don’t have to agree with it. I say, let’s change the perspective.

I might feel differently if drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers hadn’t already made massive profits at our expense. They were making a profit on my insulin twenty years ago, and they’re making a profit on it today. Same insulin. Billions in revenue.

Twenty years ago, I could afford to get the insulin I needed without much of a hassle. Today, if I lose my job, I might not be able to afford it at all. I’m through with asking, “How did we get here?”.

I say, let’s help companies, especially Pharmacy Benefit Managers, to operate with empathy for the people who have helped pump up those quarterly numbers for a couple of decades. Not because we’ve been such great customers over the years, but because I still believe that people matter more than an executive’s bonus.

I say, let’s put a restriction on how long a company can manipulate drug patent protection for their own benefit. And let’s make it a short restriction. Insulin would still be a profitable enterprise without patent protection, so I don’t see the need for this anymore.

I say, let’s eliminate the idea of drug formulary lists for PBMs. If it’s a drug, approved by the FDA, it should be covered. Period. At the same price as all the other drugs. If we can’t do that, let’s at least ensure that discounts and rebates negotiated by PBMs are passed along to patients enrolled in the plan. Period. Every penny. No exceptions.

You can give me a hundred reasons why none of these ideas would work, and I can’t argue with you on that. But I keep coming back to empathy, and the notion that the way things have always been is not the way things always have to be.

To some, the idea of changing the design of prescription drug coverage and payment seems insane. But in the developed world, that’s only true in the USA. Nearly every other industrialized nation on the planet does a better job of helping patients gain affordable access to drugs.

What’s the holdup, America? It’s time to change the perspective.

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Diabetes By The Numbers (Part 2): Christel Marchand Aprigliano on insulin pricing.

Welcome back to Diabetes By The Numbers.

Today, I feature the second part of my conversation with Christel Marchand Aprigliano.  In this episode, we talk about one of the hot button issues of the day– insulin pricing.

We cover a recent meeting between insulin makers and diabetes advocates, and developments on pricing announced by two of those insulin makers since that meeting took place in November of 2016.
DBTN

Reference Material – Click below for more information on this topic

Christel Marchand Aprigliano writes about diabetes at:
ThePerfectD.com

You can connect with Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition, or DPAC, at:
DiabetesPAC.org

Underwhelmed.

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.

Underwhelmed.

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