On average, it is estimated to cost between $2.28 and $3.42 to make one bottle of insulin, according to Business Insider. Now, remember that bottle. Think of it running down a chain of people until it finally gets to the shelf of a pharmacy, and eventually into the customer’s hands. That same vial, filled with only 10 mL of insulin will last about a week and a half for a person with Type 1 diabetes. It’s now sold for anywhere between $180 and $362, depending on the type of insulin.
For people who have Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce enough, or often any, insulin to keep blood sugars steady when the person consumes sugar. Without insulin, these diabetics can suffer from nerve damage, lose eyesight and gain heart issues. In extreme circumstances, they can die from ketoacidosis, which occurs when a body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. It is estimated that 7.4 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes that require insulin to maintain their health.
However, “I read a couple of articles about people who have had to limit their insulin intake because they can not afford it, or who use expired insulin because they can’t afford new doses,” said Mrs. Amy Bauman, English teacher and mother to an 8 year-old Type 1 diabetic. “With Novolog, one of the two kinds of insulin we use, we pay $50 each time it’s refilled. So, in total, over 11 months…We’ve spent over $4,000 on meds, including insulin, lancets, test strips and every other supply. Our hospital stay isn’t included in that either.” Feeling fortunate is an understatement for Bauman, “I know that a lot of people don’t have that available to them, or are not aware of discounts and are not given that information. “It makes me feel really upset, and also nervous…when my son’s an adult, what if he had some catastrophic event and he couldn’t work? How is he going to pay?” Bauman said.
For many people living with diabetes, they struggle to find ways to pay for their medical supplies. Whether they can’t work, or are not provided the insurance needed to gain access to insulin and blood glucose meters, millions of people across the United States are struggling to come up with adequate funds.
“I think it’s immoral,” Bauman said. “Companies are more concerned with profit than with people’s lives.” Since the discovery of the drug in 1921, advances are always being made. “But, since it’s pretty much the same compounding, there’s no reason it should cost so much,” Bauman said. The three largest insulin manufacturing companies, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, have had patents expiring beginning in 2014, which allows for other companies to produce the drug without larger monopolizing corporations hanging over head.
But, the FDA testing and approval rates are creating a huge barrier for new pharmaceutical products entering the market, making it nearly impossible for a fourth-party insulin provider to come in and produce a “generic” version of insulin. Between all of the FDA testing, and no allowance of a generic insulin, the price of the drug continues to rise more and more with each production, leaving people across the country wondering when it will end.