Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Big Pharma Murderers

In 1922 Frederick Banting and Charles Best, the Canadian scientists who discovered insulin, sold their patent to the University of Toronto for $1, hoping it would be a cure for diabetes. Today a vial of insulin – which will last 28 days once opened – costs about $300 in the US. Between 2012 to 2016, the average cost of insulin in the United States nearly doubled to $5,705 per year for individuals with type 1 diabetes. Production costs for a vial of insulin are estimated to cost around $5 while pharmaceutical companies charge as high as $540 per vial and Americans are dying as a result of being unable to afford it in addition to the expensive costs of medical care, and supplies such as syringes and glucose monitors.

Black, Hispanic and Asian adults have been hit hardest by escalating prices. They are more likely to have diabetes than white adults and are less likely to be insured. One in four diabetes patients ration their insulin, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Jada Renee Louis of Newport News, Virginia, died on 22 June 2019 about a week after requiring emergency hospital care for diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication caused by a lack of insulin. She was 24. A type 1 diabetic, Louis, who did not have health insurance coverage, couldn’t afford the cost of her insulin doses and pay her rent. She chose to skip doses in order to pay her rent.

“People are literally dying over $300 like my sister did. It shouldn’t have to be like that. People shouldn’t have to choose between medications or shelter. That’s the most outrageous decision for somebody to have to make, yet people are doing it daily,” Jazmine Baldwin, Jada's’s sister, told the Guardian. “She was a wonderful person and now people don’t get to experience that any more. There’s no telling what she could have done, how many lives she could have touched, and now no one will know because of a $300 insulin bill.” Her family is still struggling to cover the funeral expenses,
"This is an entire ecosystem of profiteering. We’re going to need systemic fixes and that means people are going to have to organize and mobilize,” said Dr Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute and co-chair of Right Care Alliance, a grassroots organization focused on reforming the US healthcare system to put patients before profits. "There is a lot of monopoly power, asymmetry of knowledge and power, and as a result you have sky-high prices across American healthcare, in particular the pharmaceutical sector.”

Some 1.25 million Americans are currently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an illness where people fail to produce insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. That number is estimated to grow to 5 million by 2050.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes require several daily insulin doses, while those with type 2 diabetes require varying dosages. Individuals with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, are able to produce some of their own insulin, but are unable to rely on it to control blood sugar levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 23.1 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, while millions more are either undiagnosed or pre-diabetic. An estimated 90 to 95% of diabetics have type 2 diabetes. According to a 2012 study, 2 million Americans under the age of 65 who are diabetic have no health insurance coverage. A 2017 study found diabetes is the third-leading cause of death in the United States.
On Christmas Day in 2018, Meaghan Carter passed away in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 47 after struggling for six months to afford insulin in the wake of losing her job with health insurance coverage.

"...The pharmaceutical companies are the reason she’s not here,” said Mindi Patterson Meaghan's sister-in-law. “The pharmaceutical companies murdered Meaghan. Meaghan did everything she could and managed for six months.”

Deidre Waxman, a type 1 diabetic in Massachusetts explained, “If you look at the US Veterans Administration healthcare system, you will see that is socialized medicine. For the same exact insulin I pay $700 a month, veterans pay either zero or $8,” she said. “That’s what socialized medicine could help us with among many other things, but without the ability to negotiate prices, big pharma will always have us over a barrel.”

Lija Greenseid of Minnesota organized “Caravan to Canada”, a campaign of type 1 diabetics to highlight the price differences between the two countries, said,“It should be a source of shame that we have a healthcare system that is extremely high quality for those who can access and afford it, but many have much worse healthcare because of the cost and complexities compared to other countries with different forms of healthcare systems,” said Greenseid. “In the United States the barriers cause harm and they are only there because the complex system is what allows everybody to make money to the detriment of patients.”

The son of Nicole Smith-Holt,  passed away in 2017 at the age of 26 due to rationing insulin.

“Alec had a zest for life. He was interested, active, fun-loving. He was a hard-working young man and he wanted nothing more than to live a healthy, active life. But the Pharma companies took his life at a very young age,” said Smith-Holt. “They priced him out of his life. They made it so unaffordable that he did not have a choice and could not afford the product created for him to live. It’s frustrating to know there are no laws in place to prevent these pharma companies from doing this.”

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