Amid political strife, immigration articles, and the ever present “Trump” front page headlines, a few newspapers had a small piece about a rising lawsuit case revolving around insulin. Insulin is the life-saving hormone that allows Type-1 diabetics to live more than a year or two. Type-1 diabetes is not something that can be controlled. It is the literal failure of an organ in the body. For instance, if your heart organ fails, you die. If a machine pumps your blood for you, you will survive. Insulin is almost like a pump with a short battery life.
While many people have never heard of insulin, most understand the corruption behind pharmaceutical companies. The name Martin Shkreli made headlines in 2015 as the “Most Hated Man in the United States”. As stated by BBC this was due to a 5000% increase in the life-saving Aids drug called Daraprim. 2016 followed up with the Epipen price increase by Mylan, whose CEO had no problem taking responsibility for the price increase. Forbes describes the situation in its entirety.
Now, it is insulin’s turn for the spotlight. On Monday, Jan. 30 a group accused three insulin-producing companies for raising prices in order to benefit with the pharmacies. As The New York Times explains, the price of insulin has tripled from 2002 to 2013. This price hike by Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly has contributed to Type 1 diabetics risking their lives by going into a state where their blood sugar is so high that physical complications arise, or they end up starving themselves trying to survive. While this is awful, how does it concern you? It does not unless you know someone who has it.
The corruption of pharmaceutical companies did not bother me either, but when I started seeing my girlfriend Alex who is Type-1 diabetic I realized how narrowly I viewed health in general. Going out to eat the first time was eye-opening. I was used to getting my food, saying a quick prayer and eating because I was starving. Alex had to count the carbs in the food she ordered, prick her finger to check her blood sugar, calculate the amount of insulin, stick herself with a needle and then eat. I probably would not survive having to calculate everything I eat because I eat so much, at that moment I realized how good I had it. I then thought about all the diseases and sicknesses I neglected daily. Caring about these things should become part of all of our lives.
Prior to this experience, I paid little attention to pharmaceuticals because I do not have to deal with them. Here is a way to make it relatable to your life. Food is fundamental to survival. Imagine a company owns all of the food in the world and randomly the CEO decided a $1 loaf of bread now costs $5,000. There would be an immediate uprising. Since the amount of people affected by the price increase of Daraprim, Epipen, and Insulin is small, only a small group cares to revolt against this corruption.
Spreading awareness is the first step, deciding what to do with this new found knowledge is up to you. Will we let this corruption and greed continue?