The People's Perspective on Medicine

People Are Dying Because of the High Cost of Medicines

The high cost of medicines, especially insulin, is having a scary impact on the health of the nation. If people cannot afford insulin it can lead to death.

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.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I call this B.S. Drug companies spend most of their money on advertising, not research and development.

There is only one solution to the high cost of medication and health care in this country. The United States needs to join the rest of the industrialized world in providing universal health care for their citizens. I guarantee that if the government was footing the bill there would be negotiations with the drug companies for lower prices. Why do you think insurance companies refuse to pay for the brand name drug when the generic comes on the market?

Yes, we would pay for it in taxes but it would still be less than premiums, copays and deductibles. Until the American people wake up and vote people into office that are willing to tackle this problem and make changes, these problems will only get worse, and more people will die and go bankrupt from health care costs.

Yes, there are older style insulins available for $25 at Walmart. Newer insulins are distinctively different (not just pharma doing a little change and then filing a new patent) If you believe that they are basically the same… then just go ahead and use the older insulins. Innovation is not free. Multi millions of dollars are spent in research and clinical trials before that product ever comes to market.

Yes, there’s the older insulin that is $25 at Walmart. Newer insulins are different. Innovation is not free.

There is an article in today’s (12/07/18) Wall St Journal on high medication prices. Apparently Democratic members of the House have sent letters to CEO’s of big pharmaceutical companies. It might be more effective to send letters to the FDA describing how much they will cut
the agency’s budget if they cannot come up with a workable solution for the problem.

The main reason medications cost so much is the inhuman greed of corporate CEO’s, etc. No human being can perform enough work to justify the constant robbery of the public. Nor can they add enough personal value to justify their financial actions. Allowing this behavior to happen is one more example of how the USA has become truly an extremely ugly country.

This article started off with: ”The high cost of medicines, especially insulin, is having a scary impact on the health of the nation.”
First, I totally agree!…especially in regards to insulin.
2nd, I have a couple of questions: ‘They’ say opiate addiction is an epidemic & a disease – therefore we should (& DO) give them free Narcan – isn’t diabetes at epidemic proportions & also a disease?…so why isn’t Free insulin given to those who need it?

As a type II diabetic I have had good success using inexpensive insulin from WALMART. They have the best prices on insulin and diabetic supplies. Belive it or not I had a dog that was also diabetic. The veterinarian charged outrageous prices for insulin purchased from his clinic. It was suggested to me that the human insulin from WALMART was the same thing I was getting from the veterinarian, again it was inexpensive and did the same job.

There is cheaper, older style, insulin available for about $25 a vial at Walmart and other stores. It is harder to use, but can be a life saver for those without any other resources.

The insulin you are referring to at Walmart is Novilin and it is $25. You DON’T need a prescription to buy it. Apparently their is at least a couple of types or variations… “regular “ & Novilin 70/30. One of the ‘catches’ with these is that you ‘need’ to do it 30 minutes before each meal compared to just before or immediately after eating by using Humalog.

The exorbitant cost of insulin for Type 1 diabetes is outrageously cruel and discriminatory. My heart breaks for those who must go without, cut their dosage or pay the high price to live. This is a national crisis. I pray that our Lord will guide us in finding a solution and comfort those who are adversely affected.

Please note that Dr. Rosenthal’s first name is spelled with an “S” not a “Z” – Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal. Important if trying to find her work or follow her on Twitter.

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