I admit, I’m protected against this by a good health care plan, but I know how ridiculous the prices are — especially when I did take more one month and am close to running out before the renewal date.
In the United States, just three pharmaceutical giants hold patents that allow them to manufacture insulin: Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk. Put together, the “big three” made more than $12 billion in profits in 2014, with insulin accounting for a large portion.
What makes this so worrisome is that the big three have simultaneously hiked their prices. From 2010 to 2015, the price of Lantus (made by Sanofi) went up by 168 percent; the price of Levemir (made by Novo Nordisk) rose by 169 percent; and the price of Humulin R U-500 (made by Eli Lilly) soared by 325 percent.
I’ve used two of the three of those in my life.
To make insulin affordable, we need more competition. Nothing would do this faster than a “generic” form of insulin. (Technically, because insulin is made using bacteria, it should be referred to as a “biosimilar” instead of a “generic.”) Unfortunately, there isn’t one available in the United States.
Don’t hold your breath, kids.
Let’s flash back now to this very blog, January 20, 2006:
Pfizer Inc. hopes to begin selling Exubera, the first inhalable version of insulin to win federal approval, by midyear.
To which I wrote:
I’ll believe it when I see it, and not even then. I’ll believe it when there isn’t a class action suit a year later.
The promise of inhalable insulin has been around for as long as I’ve been diabetic — almost 19 years now. It’s right up there with the watch that will keep constant track of your blood sugar without taking blood. (That’s sorta out now, too, but with its own cavaets.)
In case you’re wondering what happened to this wonder drug, let’s consult Wikipedia:
As of October 18, 2007, Pfizer has announced that it will no longer manufacture or market Exubera. According to Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Kindler this is because Exubera “failed to gain acceptance among patients and physicians.”
At the time of Exubera’s discontinuation, several other companies were pursuing inhaled insulin… However, by March 2008, all of these products had been discontinued except for MannKind’s Afrezza product. As of March 2010 Afrezza was still under FDA review.
So, like I said, don’t get your hopes up when it comes to diabetes cures or medications.