Frederick Banting invent insulin in 1923. He refused to sign his name on the patent because he believed it was unethical to make a profit from such an invention. He believed insulin belonged only to the public.
Charles Best and James Collip were his co-inventors. They sold the insulin patent to University of Toronto for just $1. These men were determined to make insulin affordable for everyone who needed it.
Unfortunately, things have changed in recent years. Over the past decade, insulin prices have only risen.
Per-person drug spending has increased by two-fold for individuals who have employer-paid insurance. Although the copay cost for a vial can be between $30 and $50, it may be higher for people who have high-deductible plans.
It’s even worse for people without insurance. The average price of a medication vial is $300 today. Some people need six per month.
More than 8 million Americans with diabetes rely on insulin for their survival. Because of its high price, one in four people with diabetes has to ration or skip insulin.
Some have to move to Canada to get insulin, as the drug prices there are more tightly controlled and a carton of insulin costs $20.
The rising cost of insulin is due to the freedom that pharmaceutical companies have to charge whatever price they wish. Companies take advantage of America’s very relaxed drug pricing policies.
“They are doing it because they can, and it’s scary because it happens in all kinds of different drugs and drug classes,” Jing Luo, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Vox in 2017.
The government in England has an agency which negotiates directly with pharmaceutical firms. The government determines the maximum price it will pay for a drug. If the companies disagree, they lose the entire market. This puts drugmakers at disadvantage and drives down the cost of medicines.
Unfortunately, the U.S.—which has long taken a free-market approach to pharmaceuticals—doesn’t do that.
American families have been suffering from the rising cost insulin. Therefore, the Biden administration has imposed a $35 ceiling on the drug in their Build Back Better bill. The Senate has rescheduled the bill.
For some Americans with diabetes, relief from high insulin prices could soon be in sight.
Civica Rx is a non-profit generic drugmaker that has been supported by hospitals, philanthropies and insurers. It announced earlier this month that insulin will be manufactured and sold for $30 per vial. The company hopes that it will be available at pharmacies by 2024.
Civica Rx must complete the construction of its Virginia manufacturing plant, measuring 140,000 square feet, before the drug can be launched on the market. FDA approval must also be obtained for the drug.
Civica Rx believes its products could account for about 30% of the U.S. Insulin market.
“That’s actually a fairly fast development time for a product like this. For Civica as a nonprofit, we’re going to manufacture these insulins and sell them for close for what it costs us to make them – without any huge markup,” said Civica’s Allan Coukell.
The company has a plan in place to stop retail markups.
“We’ll actually have a transparent pricing policy where we say nobody should pay more than—for example, for a vial, $30—at the pharmacy counter. And we’re going to say that right on the vial: ‘this is the maximum price anybody should pay’ so that there’s no downstream markups that unfairly target the consumer,” Coukell explained.
Civica Rx deserves our appreciation for their willingness to do their part in helping more people with diabetes access this life-saving medication.
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