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How Insulin Became Unaffordable

Insulin is a life-or-death medication for some people, particularly if you are a Type 1 diabetic: If you need it to do the work that your pancreas can’t do, you will die without it. However, the hard facts are that there are no generic insulins, meaning manufacturers can get away with charging just about anything they want for it. In the past 20 years, prices for insulin have gone up over 700 percent — and people are dying as not everyone can pay the asking prices for something that costs only about $5 to produce. According to Harvard Politics, one young man died when he tried to ration his insulin because he couldn’t pay the $1,300 he needed to pick up his prescription. Besides greedy drug makers, insurers carry some of the blame, Harvard Politics claims, and the fact that the United States doesn’t negotiate drug prices with manufacturers also contributes to the outrageous costs.

Diabetics aren’t the only ones who are paying the ultimate price for drug companies’ ruthless ways. If you suffer from allergies to food, insect stings, medications or latex and are at risk of anaphylaxis, an EpiPen could save your life. An EpiPen contains about a dollar’s worth of epinephrine — and in 2016 it made the news when the manufacturer jacked up the consumer price for one of these injection pens to more than $600.

This, while the Mylan CEO got a 671 percent increase in annual compensation, to nearly $19 million. And the story never ends, no matter what the drug: Pharma defends high drug prices with high-priced PR campaigns and patient front groups, while people who can’t pay the prices just keep dying.

Another thing that wasn’t mentioned in the featured article, however, is direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, which began in the U.S. in 1997, even though DTC advertising is allowed in only one other country in the world. Aggressive drug ads telling people to get medication from their doctors are simply unethical and they need to stop. The bottom line is this is all about greed. Whether they’re pricing their drugs so high that people die because they can’t afford them, or convincing someone through a TV ad that every symptom under the sun needs its own drug, it’s drug companies that are sending health care costs soaring, and ultimately causing deaths. As consumers, we not only need to take control of our health, but to demand that our legislators pull the plug on costs and drug promotions.
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