Insulin: The markup

By Staff Writer Timothy Howard.

The rising prices of insulin are causing some diabetics to ration their supply, with some have even died as a consequence of not being able to afford their vital medication.

Insulin is primarily used by type 1 diabetics who don’t produce the insulin needed for their bodies to convert sugar into energy. Diabetes is a very serious disease, as it can cause loss of limbs, health degradation, weight loss, and even death if left untreated. So why is insulin so expensive.

Millions of Americans have diabetes, (American Diabetes Association) so it’s not unreasonable to assume to production of insulin isn’t a problem So there must be some kind of drastic reason right? The answer is…. money.

Pharmaceutical corporations make insulin people with type 1 diabetes because they are aware there is money to be made on a dependent base of people who need a commodity to survive.
So again, why are people dying? Well the problem comes down to diabetes itself. The threat of a lack of insulin is such an existential threat to the existence of a diabetic person that most are willing to pay whatever is required to stay alive.

Their an inelastic customer base. Corporations who have a monopoly on the production of insulin can unilaterally jack the prices without any threat of recourse due to lack of regulation and/or deregulation in regard to government oversight of the pharmaceutical industry.

According to the Washington Post, a vial of insulin in 1998 cost $17; in 2016 the price for an equitable vial is about $138. Unfortunately the prices have only risen since then. Yet manufacturers have not had shortages of insulin or a sudden immense difficulty producing it.

They raise prices because they can… and they know people will pay.

As a result of treachery, some people can’t afford to pay for insulin, especially those who can’t get insurance which will cover such expenses due to their condition. As a consequence, people die.

Others have resorted to venturing up to Canada to buy insulin, where the prices of drugs are heavily controlled and regulated. However, this tactic will not work forever.

The Trump administration regularly talks about how expensive drugs in the U.S. are. Trump himself has stated that he intends to lower prices by trying to make other countries pay equitable rates to the United States for drugs.

The logic behind this is that if the Trump administration get other countries to pay equitable rates to the U.S., as we are one of the largest drug manufacturers/exporters, then rates will fall as everyone pays the same.

This is borne from an idea that Americans effectively subsidize other nations who have price controls on their drugs. Unfortunately this is a naïve strategy.

If the rest of the world were to agree to said arrangement, then they would face the same realities that drug dependent people in the U.S. face…sky high prices.

In short, the situation is fraught for Americans with type 1 diabetes.

Their only option is to ensure the failure of the Trump Administration’s plans and to push for more regulation to alleviate price hikes.


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