Marketing of Insulin Explains a Lot About Our Health Care System

A recent commentary (M Fralick, AS Kesselheim. NEJM 2019; 381: 1793-5) describes the U.S. Insulin Crisis.

Background: 

  • In 1922, insulin was first injected into a 14-year-old boy with severe type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). Prior to this, T1DM had been considered a universally fatal disease
  • Frederick Banting, John Macleod, and members or their team that discovered insulin sold their patent for $1 to assure it could be widely affordable
  • “U.S. law allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to price their products at whatever level they believe the market will bear and to raise prices over time without limit”
  • “Direct competition in the insulin market is lacking”
  • Since insulin is a biologic drug, this necessitates “additional testing beyond what is usually required for generic drugs before approval by the” FDA.

Current Situation:

  • A carton of insulin that sells for $300 in the U.S. could be purchased in Canada for $20 (in U.S. dollars)
  • Nearly 100 years after the development of insulin, “insulin is inaccessible to thousands of Americans because of its high cost.”

My take: Why does insulin cost 15 times more in the U.S. than Canada?   These excess costs with insulin are occurring despite a great deal scrutiny; unfortunately, U.S. consumers are paying extra for a wide range of pharmaceuticals.  Going from the Nobel discovery of insulin to our current state is a clear indication of the need to reform of our healthcare system.

Related blog posts:

Mural in Quebec City: La Fresque des Québécois

2 thoughts on “Marketing of Insulin Explains a Lot About Our Health Care System

  1. Agree! The scrutiny of physicians as being the cause of rising healthcare costs needs to be curtailed and the persistent drop in Medicare rates on physician reimbursement (which then has domino effect to private insurance) needs to end. Attack the problem where it will have a much greater effect.

  2. Pingback: “America’s Huge Health Care Problem” | gutsandgrowth

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