According to Diabetes Daily, “Insulin is the hormone in our body that allows glucose (sugar) to get into the cells of our body that need glucose for energy” (Diabetes Daily, 2016). For most people with diabetes, they need to take insulin injections in order to manage their blood sugar levels.
However, this can be very difficult when the insulin they need costs hundreds of dollars a month and raises their insurance premiums. This can cause high blood glucose levels, which leads to several other conditions that are life-threatening that are related to diabetes.
Anders Kelto states that the creation of insulin started in the late 1800s (Kelto, 2015). This is when scientists made the groundbreaking discovery linking diabetes and damaged cells that produced insulin found inside of the pancreas.
According to Kelto, researches in Toronto were able to successfully take insulin from cattle and give it to people with diabetes in the early 1920s (Kelto, 2015). A lot of the patients made huge recoveries. This led to the mass sale of insulin from pigs and cattle around the world.
However, this generic form of insulin was not perfect. Some people had allergic reactions. Others didn’t like the multiple injections throughout the days that were necessary.
Scientists were able to make the drug better, limiting the bad reactions to the generic insulin. They made it possible for the substance to stay longer in bloodstream, which stabilized blood sugar (Kelto, 2015).
So, why is insulin so expensive? In the 1970s, the insulin market changed forever. Scientists created a technique called “recombinant DNA technology” (Kelto, 2015). This involves taking a human gene and putting it inside of bacteria, including E. coli bacteria, to create insulin (Diabetes Daily, 2016).
Once this new insulin came out, the generic animal insulin disappeared completely from the market even though it was a viable option. In fact, some people had better results with the animal based insulin. However, since it disappeared, people who could not afford the new kind were forced to somehow pay for it.
Just because something is new, does not mean it is better (Diabetes Daily, 2016). In the United States, you are not able to buy the older form of insulin. However, you can buy them from different countries.
Currently, there are senators challenging drug companies for possibly running up the price of insulin. However, this is being denied by the companies. Besides, creating the new kind of insulin is a very expensive process.
Therefore, since there is not an alternative option, people with diabetes are forced to pay for the insulin they rely on to live a healthy life.
The high demand for insulin has also raised the price. According to Diabetes Daily, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina spent $250 million dollars on medication in one year. Insulin took up 13% of that money (Diabetes Daily, 2016).
There is a chance that prices might fall due to patents becoming expired. However, it stays expensive at the current moment.
Introducing the old, generic types on insulin might help regulate the cost to create competition inside of the market.
Why IS Insulin So Expensive?
Diabetes Daily Staff. (2016). The real reason insulin is so expensive. Diabetes Daily. Retrieved from https://www.diabetesdaily.com/blog/the-real-reason-insulin-is-so-expensive-322595/
Kelto, A. (2015). Why is insulin so expensive in the U.S.?. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/19/393856788/why-is-u-s-insulin-so-expensive