Target: Dr. James L. Madara, M.D., CEO and Executive Vice President of the American Medical Association
Goal: Take necessary steps to decrease rising insulin prices.
The price tag on insulin, the most common treatment for men and women suffering from the effects of diabetes, is skyrocketing. Between 2002 and 2013, the average price of insulin in the United States rose from $231 to an astonishing $736 per person, an increase of about 219 percent. This climb in price is making insulin less accessible as the condition becomes more common in low-income populations.
While some Type-2 diabetics do not need regular insulin, Type-1 diabetics will die without it. According to Dr. William Herman, M.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and coauthor of a recent study on the drastic rise of insulin costs published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the escalating price tag on insulin is “a real problem.”
The study coincides with the release of information gathered by the World Health Organization (WHO) that paints a grim picture of how common diabetes has become. According to the WHO, globally the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980 and the majority of diabetics worldwide live in poor, developing countries. The total figure of worldwide diabetics, 442 million, was previously projected to not be this high until at least 2040, meaning that the rate of diabetes is accelerating.
Current projects state that there will be around 700 million people worldwide living with diabetes in less than a decade, which makes the skyrocketing price of insulin all the more dire. The spike in the cost of insulin is attributed to the creation and implementation of synthetic insulin, which has proven to be far more costly than natural human insulin. However, synthetic insulin has proven to be faster-acting and more convenient to use, according to another study Dr. Herman coauthored.
While synthetic insulin may be a preferable choice for those with Type-1 diabetes, men and women with Type-2, which is by far the most common diabetes variant, really do not need synthetic insulin to manage their condition. According to Herman, doctors should discuss using the less expensive human insulin, since the advantages of using synthetic insulin do not justify the price tag for every Type-2 diabetic.
Since the overuse of synthetic insulin is contributing to massive price hikes for it, urge the American Medical Association to suggest doctors have a frank discussion with their patients about using human insulin to help deflate costs of synthetic insulin.
Dear Dr. Madara,
The skyrocketing costs of synthetic insulin is a definitive cause for concern, especially with rates of diabetes escalating as well. While synthetic insulin is, at least in terms of effectiveness, the better option for patients with diabetes, human insulin is also effective, especially for Type-2 diabetics whose insulin usage is primarily to stimulate their body’s own production of insulin.
Since the majority of diabetics are in impoverished areas and developing nations, it seems to us that they are more in need of fast-acting synthetic insulin than the average Type-2 diabetic. However, because of the extraordinary price tag, they will not be able to afford it. Many, including those with Type-1 diabetes, will die not from lack of desire to treat their conditions, but because they simply cannot afford it.
We urge you and others in the American Medical Association to take steps to lower the cost of synthetic insulin and help make it more available to those in the most need.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Alden Chadwick