While the EpiPen’s price increase has been thoroughly documented, the skyrocketing cost of insulin — another life-saving drug — has gone largely unnoticed.
With some 26 million Americans diagnosed with a type of diabetes, and another 360 million worldwide also living with diabetes, insulin remains a high-demand drug that a significant number of people depend on to live. However, much like Martin Shkreli’s 5,000 percent price increase for AIDS treatment drug Daraprim, and Mylan Pharmaceuticals’ 461 percent price increase for the EpiPen, the patent for insulin has been cornered by three pharmaceutical giants who are relentlessly jacking up the price of insulin, almost exclusively for customers in the United States.
As Yale School of Medicine endocrinologist Kasia Lipska wrote in the New York Times, the patent for rapid-acting insulin has been monopolized by “The Big Three” pharmaceutical companies — Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk — and the price for the insulin products made by those manufacturers has risen astronomically over the last decade. Earlier this year, PBS reported that the cost of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, going from $231 per patient each year to $736.
In March of this year, T1 International conducted a survey on insulin use from diabetic patients in a variety of countries on several continents. Their findings confirmed that patients in the United States pay an exorbitant price for rapid-acting insulin products in comparison to patients in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America. When examining the per-milliliter price patients pay for Apidra, which is made by Sanofi, the drug is virtually free in every country where data is available, while the same drug costs $6 per milliliter in the United States.