In the movie Wall Street we are told by actor Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko) that “greed is good, greed is right, greed works, greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit…” But the high cost of medicines can negatively affect health. A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine (Dec. 3, 2018) discusses the impact of the high cost of insulin on patient health. Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal comments in her article titled “When High Prices Mean Needless Death.”
What Happens When Insulin Prices Skyrocket?
The high cost of medicines can affect patient access. Over the last ten years, the price of insulin has tripled in the US. This is a life-saving medication for people with type 1 diabetes.
A small survey of almost 200 patients who need insulin found that a quarter of them had reduced their doses in order to save money. People reported using less insulin than prescribed, stretching out the insulin or not filling an insulin prescription because of cost.
Not surprisingly, those who reported skimping were less likely to be controlling their blood sugar adequately. As a result, they may experience negative health consequences.
Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD, Calls BS!
Dr. Rosenthal starts her invited commentary in JAMA Internal Medicine with this statement:
“I have spent the last 5 years of my life as a journalist writing about the irrational costs and prices across the US health care system. But if there is 1 fact that should cause national embarrassment it is the high price tag we affix to living with type 1 diabetes.”
Dr. Rosenthal points out that the cost of insulin in other countries is substantially lower than in the US. People in the U.S. who couldn’t afford their insulin have died. She notes:
“That is because people with type 1 diabetes are both beneficiaries and pawns in the business ventures of drug makers, device manufacturers, and insurers, and sometimes these companies seem willing to sacrifice a pawn or 2 for profits. Today people with type 1 diabetes are again at an increased risk of becoming ill and even dying prematurely because of the price.”
We invite you to read Dr. Rosenthal’s commentary at this link.
Dr. Rosenthal: A Voice of Reason!
We had the honor of interviewing Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal on our syndicated public radio show in March, 2017. The title of the program was Show 1114: How Health Care Became Big Business. Here is a link to that interview.
You can listen to the FREE streaming audio by clicking on the green arrow above Dr. Rosenthal’s photo. Or, you can download the FREE podcast of the show by going to the bottom of the page and clicking on the Download the mp3 link. When that page comes up, you can purchase a CD or choose the MP3 version for free by clicking on the arrow on the right just above the add to cart box. Listen on your phone or other electronic device.
Reports from Readers:
Visitors to this website have shared their own experiences with insulin.
Crystal is a nurse:
“I am also seeing atrocious prices on insulin. I use Lantus. My MC Part D provider doesn’t cover it. If I order from them, it’s $1600 for 90 days and lands me in the donut hole with the second filling. Good Rx is about $900 & doesn’t count toward the donut hole. But if I ask for a script for a 10 ml vial to draw up my own dosage with an insulin syringe, the cost is about $190 for 90 days and doesn’t count either.
“Those fancy pens are VERY expensive. In fact, any injectible in a fancy delivery device will cost a lot more. For insulin, hospitals don’t buy the pens. They use multi-dose vials because it is so much cheaper.”
Ken also needs insulin and is really mad:
“I can see paying more for some new miracle drug but the two drugs I need are Ranexa, which has been out since 1985, and insulin which has been available since 1922. A one-month supply for me would be over $1000.
“All big pharma does is make a little change that doesn’t really do anything different and applies for a new patent, tying up the medication for decades. I think by now they have recouped their research and development costs. Greedy SOBs. While I’m at it what is the four letter word that will get you fired in the drug industry….’CURE.’ They don’t want to cure any diseases because that would hurt their profits. They want a country full of sick people that will never get well.”
Cathy and her husband will have to put off retirement:
“My husband needs several different kinds of insulin daily. With the cost, we don’t see how he can retire and afford his medications.”
Ellie is worried about her son:
“My son has Type 1 diabetes and the cost of his insulin pens is at least $400 a month. We have to pay that as we have a high-deductible plan. I worry that he won’t be able to pay this when he’s out on his own. I have emailed my legislator and didn’t even get a reply back.”
What Do You Think About the High Cost of Medicines?
Share your thoughts about the high cost of medicines. Can you afford your insulin? How about other medications? You may want to read our new article about CAR-T and the treatment of B cell lymphoma. You may have a hard time believing the cost of this immunotherapy for cancer.