In recent weeks, news feeds have been dominated by outrage over the Mylan-owned EpiPen and its 500% cost growth in 9 years. The EpiPen is a necessity for those with life-threatening allergies; individuals who need the EpiPen have no option but to pay the high price.
The EpiPen isn’t the only drug causing sticker shock at the pharmacy check out counter: the cost of insulin has spiked, leaving some diabetics with a monthly pharmacy bill as high as their mortgage.
The family interviewed for the Business Insider article, reports that they spend $1,550 for supplies per month even after a $350 coupon. Their son is one of 1.25 million insured Type-1 diabetics in this country. There are a reported 29.1 million Americans with (Type 1 & Type 2) diabetes in need of insulin on a daily basis.
Here’s a brief history of Insulin manufacturing:
Insulin is naturally created in the human body, however, there are some individuals who are born without the ability to make insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or develop a resistance or lack the ability to make enough insulin (Type 2 Diabetes) later in life.
In the 1920’s, researchers developed a method to manufacture insulin in animal pancreases, for human use.
Dr. Frederick Banting, who was responsible for the discovery, won the Nobel Prize in 1923.
In the 70’s, scientists used recombinant DNA (genetic recombination of molecules) to manufacture real human DNA. In more recent years, analogues were created, which are slight variations to human insulin, in order to mimic the natural production in the body. Analogues come with a hefty price tag (even though there isn’t an added benefit over the human insulin injections).
There is a trend in the pharmaceutical industry: drug companies slightly improve their drugs, raise their prices, and doctors prescribe the “latest and greatest” with little benefit to the patient, leaving the patient with a high bill at the pharmacy.
In most industries, competition drives down cost, however, in the healthcare realm, if one pharmaceutical company decides to raise their price, the others follow. In some cases, they raise their prices simultaneously check this link right here now.
What’s the solution?
The author suggests generic competition.
Insulin is considered a “biologic” product, which means it’s made from living cells and difficult to manufacture.
The generic version of insulin would be called “bio-similar” indicating it is riskier to use than the original product because of the variation of reactions in the body.
Lowering the cost of the drug does not solve the other issue: high deductible health plans.
The article states that in 2006 only 4% of insured individuals were covered on high deductible plans. 10 years later in 2016, 25% of insured individuals are on high deductible plans.
The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that deductibles have gone up 63% in 5 years, which is 10 times the rate of inflation.
“This cost problem is yet another headache on top of complicated disease.” ~Dr. Elbert Huang, a primary care physician interviewed for the piece in Business Insider.
The article does state that diabetes is one of the most covered chronic conditions in America; not all diabetics pay high monthly bills for their supplies.
“This isn’t a disease the children will outgrow. There will always be a need to get insulin in their bodies no matter the method or the price.”
Read the full article here.
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