If This Doesn’t Lead To Fair Drug Prices, Nothing Will

Pharma arrogance, thy name is insulin (boldface mine):

Millions of diabetes patients around the United States are experiencing a health crisis due to massive increases in the price of insulin, which these patients need to live. They are being forced to choose between basic needs: food, rent, or vision? Working kidneys? Attached limbs?

Like EpiPen prices, prices for insulin have unaccountably risen over several years, though there is no shortage of the drug and insulin prices in other countries are low. Meanwhile, the companies involved in the insulin supply chain in the U.S. are blaming each other.

There are tens of thousands of healthcare professionals who are engaged in what Lee Newspapers (LN) is calling “an intricate therapeutic ballet performed to protect the health, limbs and lives of the almost 30 million people” who live with the disease in the U.S. These professionals now have to weigh the cost of the essential drug against the ability of their patients to pay for it.

Dr. Justen Rudolph is a diabetes specialist at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana. “My patients having trouble with their insulin availability range from teenagers to a 90-year-old man, and there’s not a day that goes by when I’m not talking to a patient about the cost of their insulin,” he says. “They try to spread out the insulin they have to make do, and that’s not how you can control diabetes.”

…Dr. Mayer Davidson, professor of medicine at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles has been tracking the price increases. According to his figures, the wholesale price increased by up to 62 percent from 2011 through 2013, then again by between 33 percent and 107 percent from 2013 through 2015.

“This borders on the unbelievable,” Davidson said while describing a particular type of insulin which “in 2001 had the wholesale price of $45. By last year, the cost had skyrocketed to $1,447” for the same amount of insulin per month.

…The problem is compounded by the decreasing amounts that insurance companies are willing to pay for medications, said Susan Pierce, diabetes educator at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia.

People who paid $200 or less are now getting bills of $400, $500 and even more for the same amount of insulin. Meanwhile, most insurance is paying less for medications and the required co-pays are higher, so it is a double whammy that prevents the patient from getting the insulin to stay alive.”

….Dr. Loren Wissner Greene at New York University’s Langone Medical Center is one such doctor. “I’m being told to make patients switch their insulin for no good reason except to make somebody more money,” she said. “I just barely taught them that the orange pen is the fast-acting insulin and is to be taken with meals and the gray one is the slow-acting insulin to take at night. Now, suddenly, I have to switch them to a different brand to keep the pharmacy game-players happy.”

The CDC estimates that there are 21 million identified diabetics in the U.S., and an additional eight million undiagnosed diabetics. For those with type I diabetes (‘juvenile diabetes’) and who can’t produce insulin (this is an autoimmunue disease, unlinked to diet), cutting insulin isn’t an option.

It also puts the lie to how awesome our healthcare system is, even with the ACA (Obamacare). People can’t afford a very basic medication because of the co-pays and deductibles–something some asshole with a blog was harping on about six years ago (while many others were smoking Jon Gruber’s crack pipe and telling us how awesome it would be for everyone).

Taken as a whole, the diabetic population skews old, which means they vote. If our political system can’t fix this, then it is utterly broken.

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One Response to If This Doesn’t Lead To Fair Drug Prices, Nothing Will

  1. Gingerbaker says:

    Easy fix: mandate med insurance companies pick up 100% of outpatient drug costs. Let them keep prices down – as they supposedly do for EVERY other healthcare sector.

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