Are Rising Insulin Prices REALLY the Fault of Just/Primarily the Insulin Companies?

insulin-genericEarly on in my career, I was fortunate enough to be on the staff of the highest ranking official in my town.  My town was bigger than 11 states so it was a pretty large area. During a new snow, a constituent called because they had seen plows but no sanders (trucks with sand)  in the area.  “Karlya, look into this and get back to me”, were my orders from the boss.

So I did.  And we sent a sander.  The man obtained the personal phone number to my boss and he called again, and again, and again.  Each time I was called in to look into it.  “Boss, we sent the sander there three times, and I’m going to tell him we can do no more.”  Reluctantly the elected official agreed.

Four days after the snowfall, and when it was warmer and much melted, the man called my boss again and said, “We need a street sweeper here, there is sand all over my road.”

Can’t make this stuff up folks.

Sometimes, when there’s a lot of noise, the answer nor the actual problem, may be laying on the top for all to see and/or know.  I’m known to look at things from different angles and I may be a lone voice in this; but with the much chatter being passed around online—are we SURE that the rising cost of insulin is solely based upon the insulin companies themselves?

Look I have zero allegiance to any insulin company but I have been looking around a lot lately, and inasmuch as there is blame to go around—if all of the efforts are going toward the one entity WE THINK is the problem…..we better be sure THAT THEY INDEED are the problem, or there will be a whole lotta wasted energy.

I have discussed this before. I think rising cost can be based on quite a few factors, and owning the market is but a one.  How much is the insurance company charging to be on a specific tier, and on a preferred tier with the many, many insurance companies; if THAT is the case?  How much is the insurance company ‘mark-up’ because many times, the price you pay at point of purchase has many more factors than just the cost of the product.  How much does the retail store/mail order mark up the cost?  With so many insurance companies, there are quite few aspects WITHIN each insurance company and now multiply it but the FULL NUMBER of insurance companies; and do the same with the retailers.  With only (really) 3 major insulin companies it surely is easiest to say, “Hey, you three, listen to us.”

I say there is much more than that involved.

There is another factor here as well, with more ‘players’ in the process, it becomes easier and easier to for companies to tell us, “What are you looking at me for, it is not my decision?”  SO we as the patient/consumer are left to just keep going around in a circle.

There is also the factor that we demand much from our diabetes supply companies.   Quicker, smaller, more efficient, waterproof and the list goes on and on; how much cost of each product goes into the development of new products—-products we demand and scream about every chance we get.  Does cutting the cost impact that at all?

I get it….in the end it is passed on to us…..but we better know the giant we are fighting.

SO this article today is more a question and I REALLY WELCOME any and all comments.  Are we so sure that cost driven by the insulin companies is the only, or perhaps even THE MAIN reason, that insulin prices have skyrocketed?  Because if we are not sure, and we want our advocacy efforts to hold water, as we enlist the help from the government, congress, the FDA and many, many watchdogs——we better be pretty dang sure or it will all be for naught if the people we get around the able to discuss this…….are not the correct people around the table to discuss this.  Food for thought and ALL comments welcome.

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4 replies on “Are Rising Insulin Prices REALLY the Fault of Just/Primarily the Insulin Companies?”

I worked as a paramedic/firefighter for 15 years. I have been an IDDM Type 1 for 45 years. I have seen the prices raise and the types of insulin change, the type of testing also. I remember testing my urine with Clinitest tablets. I am disabled by retinopathy so with a fixed income and the prices going up effects my life first hand. Doctors went to school to obtain degrees on how to treat me and to have politicians tying there hands making my life more difficult is beyond my capabilities.

No, it’s not just the insulin companies. I’ve written that and continued advocating for that, in my continued coverage of this. Insulin Makers are one part of the problem. To many, I see a path toward to a solution (not just an AP, but progress toward…) being transparency. We need these manufacturers to disclose all of their numbers including list price and rebates and everything. THEN, we need to do the same when it comes to insurers, PBMs, and wholesalers — which are other big players in this process. We need to know what the facts are, and from there the numbers can be looked at and we can know A.) Player A gets the most profit and B.) We can analyze the process more accurately. Only then, can we start coming up with possible solutions — assuming there are any short of single-payer healthcare, which is practically a pipe-dream and political A-bomb.

I agree—but my question is how transparent is transparent? Can a government agency ‘force’ a drug company to release privately held information? Would we want that? I do believe having the information is important but to evaluate completely is it realistic to think that pharma, insurance, and retail companies put t all out on the table for the world to see? In as much as I would love that, I am hard pressed to think we will. Add into this elected officials who take BIG MONEY from these entities will be in no hurry to ruffle their corporate feathers. Answer? I wish I had one but I DO KNOW that it will take an effort that is not a bullet to one entity but rather a shotgun approach at the problem. How? Don’t know……yet. 🙂
But am surely thinking about it. Always great to hear from you. Thanks for chiming in; insightful as usual.

Actually, I do think it’s possible. The rising tide of outrage and frustration by lawmakers over prices — at both state and federal levels — generally are leading to this, where they will have to support transparency efforts. Thank EpiPen and related headline news for that. It’s a political hot potato, but transparency is something that isn’t as unrealistic as pretty much all else. How much transparency? No clue. Hopefully, all of it. Otherwise, there is no actual solution because no one can even ID the problem.

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