Article

Expensive Insulin—The Epicenter of a Large, Life-Threatening Problem

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Abstract

For millions of people with diabetes, including those with type 1 diabetes, access to insulin can be a matter of life and death. Shortly after discovering insulin in 1921, Banting, Best, and Collip sold the original patent to the University of Toronto (in Canada) for just $1, with the intention of giving affordable access to this life-saving drug to all individuals who needed it.¹ In the 1980s, the development of recombinant DNA technology allowed drug manufacturers to inexpensively produce a seemingly unlimited supply of biosynthetic insulin using the cellular machinery of bacteria and yeast.² Today, although a vial of insulin is estimated to cost no more than US $3 to $6 to produce,³ its skyrocketing price has threatened access to the drug. A vial of Humalog (insulin lispro), which cost $21 in 1996, now costs $250 to $400.⁴ Insulin pricing exemplifies the problem with a health care system that allows charging an exorbitant amount of money for life-saving medications.

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... 7 The consumer cost of T1D has risen dramatically over the last few decades. [8][9][10] While the exponential rise of the cost of insulin over the last 20 years has received significant publicity and political attention, 9 diabetes costs come from a variety of sources, including insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) supplies, glucagon, blood glucose and ketone test strips, co-pays for medical appointments, and the cost of lost productivity due to the burden of diabetes management. 11,12 Gross per-person spending on health care for people with T1D increased from $12,467 to $18,494 per year between 2012 and 2016. ...
... 7 The consumer cost of T1D has risen dramatically over the last few decades. [8][9][10] While the exponential rise of the cost of insulin over the last 20 years has received significant publicity and political attention, 9 diabetes costs come from a variety of sources, including insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) supplies, glucagon, blood glucose and ketone test strips, co-pays for medical appointments, and the cost of lost productivity due to the burden of diabetes management. 11,12 Gross per-person spending on health care for people with T1D increased from $12,467 to $18,494 per year between 2012 and 2016. ...
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