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The Daily Tonic: The (Enormous) Business of Insulin

The Daily Tonic is a two to five minute read sharing science backed health news and tips, all while getting you to crack a smile or even lol on occasion.

Diabetes is a big problem for us in the U.S. According to the latest statistics put out by the American Diabetes Association, there were 37.3 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes back in 2019. That is 11% of the U.S. population. 

And if that statistic isn’t jarring enough, over 96 million Americans over the age of 18 are pre-diabtic, meaning that their blood sugar is elevated to levels higher than normal, but not quite high enough (yet) to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  So really, a third of the U.S population is en route to being diabetic. One third! 

And given the way our health has been trending, it is safe to assume that those numbers have only gone up over the past three years. People didn’t exactly lay off the carbs or start a new workout routine when they were hoarding toilet paper and becoming pandemic at-home sourdough aficionados. 

Which brings us to the latest development regarding a key piece of legislation that is currently making its way through Congress. 

Just this past Sunday, the Senate passed a sweeping budget package meant to bring financial relief to Americans. While there are many pieces to this bill, the one we are interested in today is a last minute proposal that was stripped at the eleventh hour by the fine folks on the red team. 

“Insulin is just another example of our government not doing the right thing to move our healthcare system in the right direction”

The proposal would have capped the price of insulin to $35 per month for many patients, but senators did not like that, so they voted to block that piece of the bill before it passed the senate and got kicked to the house. 

Maybe they didn’t like it because the U.S insulin market is valued at over $20 billion and it is making a few people a lot of money. Or maybe they had a very legitimate reason for keeping the price of insulin high and us commoners just aren’t smart enough to understand. Who knows…

It is no secret that pretty much everything in our healthcare system is unnecessarily expensive, but the frustrating part about insulin in particular is that it is a generic drug that is incredibly cheap to produce. Yet, for some reason the small handful of drug companies that have cornered the insulin market have repeatedly been allowed to raise prices in lockstep throughout the years and maintain what has often been referred to as “monopoly pricing” on a drug that more and more Americans need on a daily basis. 

The key takeaway? This isn’t about the red team or the blue team. This is just another example of our government not doing the right thing to move our healthcare system in the right direction. 

Insulin should be affordable for those that need it. We should then follow that up with robust messaging and policy pointed towards getting people off of that insulin with lifestyle changes. Let’s motivate people to make the right decisions and significantly shrink the size of the insulin market in the U.S by lowering prices and getting less people to need insulin in the first place. 

Sure, some Big Pharma execs will have to make due with smaller holiday bonus checks, and shareholders will lose a few bucks, but isn’t the health of our country a bit more important than that?

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