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Diabetes is not a new disease, nor is insulin a new way of treating diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, the first time insulin was used on human beings to treat diabetes can be traced back over 90 years ago, to the early 1920s.
Between then and now, a lot has happened for insulin. The 1930s and the 1940s saw insulin become longer acting. In the 1970s, human insulin became available to treat diabetes, rather than the animal insulin. Synthetic insulin took the stage in the 2000s, making both short-acting and long-acting synthetics available.
But if insulin has been around to treat diabetes for so long, why does it cost now more than it ever has before?
According to a 2015 article on Consumer Affairs article, insulin costs diabetics anywhere from $120 to $400 per month. That's $1,400 to $4,800 per year on a medicine that is over 90 years old. Doesn't seem right, does it?
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have concluded that the reason the cost of insulin remains high is because when advancements were made with insulin, the pharmaceutical patents were effectively renewed. While under patent, a generic version of the drug cannot be produced.
But the patents on the first synthetic insulin expired in 2014. A generic form of insulin can be manufactured and offered to the public at a lower cost than the brand-name insulin that has for years served as the only option. Why hasn't it happened yet, then? What stands in the way?
Answer: the approval process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It's lengthy. But we shouldn't sit back and accept the wait. We should tell Acting Commissioner of the FDA Stephen Ostroff that the approval process of generic insulin needs to be expedited. Our health and our bank accounts depend on it.
Dear Dr. Stephen Ostroff,
According to the CDC's 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2.9 million American adults strictly used insulin to treat diabetes between 2010 and 2012. An additional 3.1 million adults used a combination of insulin and oral medication.
The number of diabetes diagnoses has not decreased. More and more people discover that they have diabetes every day; more and more people discover that they need insulin every day. Six million adults may not be such an accurate number anymore, the real number may be higher. Yet the price of insulin remains high, costing anywhere from $120 per month to $400 per month.
We understand that manufacturing a generic form of insulin has been stymied due to the preceding pharmaceutical patents. But we also understand that, according to research done at Johns Hopkins University, the patents on the first synthetic insulin expired in 2014. This means that for the first time, an equally effective but less expensive generic form of insulin could be made available to the public.
Knowing the FDA's approval process to understandably be tedious, what we'd like to ask from you is this: give top priority to generic insulin. With generic insulin, there is a chance to significantly better lives in the diabetes community. No matter what way we shake it, money does matter, especially when it comes to something our bodies need in order to survive.
We're ready for a change, and we hope you are too.