Diabetes—a disease that can wreak havoc on organs, eyesight, and limbs if left unmanaged—affects more than 37 million U.S. adults and is the country's seventh leading cause of death. The price of insulin, which is needed to treat diabetes, is so astronomical in the U.S. that experts have accused the federal government and pharmaceutical industry of violating human rights.
In a letter addressed to Senate and House leaders more than 50 organizations wrote: "World Diabetes Day marks the birthday of Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin and famously sold its patent for $1 and stated, 'Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.' Despite its discovery more than 100 years ago and the generosity of Banting and the co-inventors, many people living in the United States still struggle to afford access to the insulin they need."
"As people in the United States struggle to access affordable insulin, the big three drug corporations that manufacture insulin have repeatedly and sharply raised prices and aggressively sought to extend lucrative product monopolies, resulting in many billions of dollars in excessive spending," states the letter. "Since the 1990s, insulin manufacturers have raised prices many times over for U.S. patients, as much as 1,100%, despite their products remaining largely unchanged, and low production costs."
On Twitter last week, a user created an account posing as Eli Lilly's official page.
The user proceeded to tweet that "insulin is free now," causing Eli Lilly's share price to drop and drawing fresh attention to the sky-high price of the medicine in the U.S.
Although it costs a mere $10 to produce a vial of insulin, uninsured patients in the U.S. pay $300 to $400 per vial of the century-old drug because the three pharmaceutical corporations that control the nation's lucrative insulin market charge excessive prices. 1.3 million people in the U.S. ration insulin, including an estimated 1 in 4 people with type 1 diabetes.
"Abusive pricing of insulin, which the very same corporations who sell insulin here sell for a fraction of the price in other wealthy countries, has led to immense profits for these corporations at the cost of preventable suffering and death of people who need insulin, in addition to billions of dollars drained from government coffers and consumers' bank accounts," the letter continues.