The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Profiting from Diabetes Patients

Apr 17, 2023

In late March, the House passed a bill, “Affordable Insulin Now Act of 2023,” to limit the cost of insulin to $35 a month for diabetes patients in the U.S. This bill is currently in the Senate for approval to become a law.

Early in March, Eli Lilly got a lot of positive publicity when it announced that the company would reduce the price of their most prescribed insulin, Humulin, from $274.70 to $66.40 per vial. However, that still leaves the cost of insulin extremely high. Because diabetes patients typically use two to four vials each month, Eli Lilly would charge $122.80 to $245.60 monthly.

Those with insurance, either private insurance, or Medicaid and Medicare, may have to only pay $35 per month in out-of-pocket costs. But the difference will still have to be covered by the insurance companies—which, in the end, means passing the costs onto patients. Those without insurance will have to pay the entire cost of hundreds of dollars per month.

Nearly 40 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Around 7 million of these diabetes patients require daily injections of insulin. Almost half of all diabetes patients have reported rationing their insulin supply because of its costs. Some patients have died because of trying to stretch their insulin supplies by cutting their doses.

Yale University researchers, for this reason, concluded that even $35 per month out-of-pocket charges will be cost-prohibitive for many Americans: "It’s going to leave many still struggling and still at these catastrophic levels of spending because the cap doesn’t take into account the resources people have available."

Insulin was discovered by three University of Toronto scientists, Frederick G. Banting, Charles H. Best, and J.J.R. Macleod, in 1921. Later these three scientists sold their patent rights to the University of Toronto for $1.00 each, hoping the low price would keep the essential diabetes treatment available to everyone who needed it. According to a Rand Corporation study, the production cost of insulin today is as little as $6 a vial.

So, insulin has been around for over 100 years and is relatively cheap to produce.

But, the insulin price is still stunningly high today because three pharmaceutical giants, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, dominate 90% of the insulin market and decide on its prices. To extract lucrative profits from high insulin prices, a few individuals, who own or control these companies, rob many and reduce others to misery, even death.

We live in a capitalist society that puts such profits over human lives. People have begun protests against the vast price increases by these pharmaceutical giants out of necessity. Ultimately, only eliminating profits from the healthcare system can stop such practices.