And the Costs Go Up

Its been a while since I posted a blog. I don’t write until something hits me as needing to be said. Found one. The rising cost of medical care. Congress and the president have talked about taking it to task to fix these issues for us. Still waiting. Why has the cost gone up so far so fast? I’ve been reading lots of posts on both Twitter and Facebook talking about rising cost and some not being able to afford the medication they need to live.  Why? I can’t afford to spend the $2,000  to $3,000 for a couple months supply of insulin and I’m just starting to make good money.

It’s not like these drug companies are not making a profit. Novo Nordisc made several billion dollars in 2015. I think that was the year I looked at a while ago. Sadly they made about a few million less from us than the rest of the world all together. I think profit has a lot to do with the price increases. A chart I read in a Wall Street Journal article says med prices went up 69% since 2000. The drug pricing process is so confusing and oblique, finding a source for the increase is very hard. Many states have started enacting laws that while not controlling the prices but open the doors to see why the increases are happening.

A few months ago there was a news blip about companies freezing prices instead of increasing them like normal. An article I read claimed the freeze was only for low market use drugs (more popular drugs still got the increases) and there was no indication it would last. In other words it sounded like to placate the people and get us off their case, they postponed the increase until we calmed down again.

Insulin is my drug of choice so I use it often to show the increases and the effects of them on my life. I started on NPH back in 1977 when I first became a diabetic. According to research I’ve done it was about $35 a bottle (10ml). Currently I’m taking Novolin N which is the same basic biosimilar formulation but different company. There has ben little to no improvement in over 40 years to this insulin. Even the regular Novolog I take now has not been extravagantly advanced in many years. Newer insulins are faster but the older ones don’t really change much. Its why I’m on them, they should be cheaper. So one would think. Reality is they are not much different. Last time I asked about it at pharmacy here was a difference of about $20 between older insulin and newer one I had been on.

I asked to switch years ago due to money issues to a cheaper fast acting insulin. My cost dropped from about $115 a bottle down to $60- $70 per bottle. Biosimilar (means the same formula really) products now-a-day are about $294 a bottle. How did it go up without a significant change? Still kicks in in about 30 to 90 minutes and last around 4 hours. Newer insulins kick in about 15 minutes and only last 3 hours. That is not a huge change but I’d give that a thumbs up for a price bump at least.

The long term insulins? Those are even worse in my book. Lantus is a long acting (24 hour) insulin that has been around for years. An article I read claimed that its patents was set to run out a year or two ago. I’ve never really checked into that. I got put on Toujeo a few years ago shortly after it came out. “It will be so much better for you.” I was told by my doctor. Well it was not. I read the information the company put out on it since it was supposed to be so new, only out for a few months when I was put on it. Come to find out Toujeo is actually a new formulation of Lantus. It will last in your body 36 hours according to the literature on it. 36 hours? Why? I still have to take it every 24 hours so I’m not gaining anything by switching other than a more costly insulin. The best part was I also read that since it was similar to Lantus the patent on Lantus was extended. No generic insulin then. It sure sounds like a profit boosting measure to me.

Another area that seems to be boosting prices is the lack of competition. Lack of competition? This is America were we can innovate out of anything. The corporations are really good at it. When people here started realizing that the same meds here are only a fraction the cost in other countries they began ordering them through the mail. A law was put on the books to stop that once it impacted the drug makers profits. Instead of opening up competition they capped the market to prevent having to compete and lower the prices here in the USA. The same insulin people get for $150 a bottle here are only about $9 in the UK and $2 in India. WTH? Same drugs made by the same company are so much cheaper there. Why? Those countries have a universal system that has the government as the health insurance provider. If you want to sell your drug there you have to negotiate a reasonable price for it or you don’t sell it at all. They would rather have a smaller profit than no profit. And yes they still show a profit in those countries even with such low prices. Huh.

The USA has an average price tag of over $8,000 per person in medical costs. The next one down the list was about $5,000. lol Even better that country had a longer life expectancy than we do. Less money and better care than we have. We should be paying more attention and less money.

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