Opinion

IN RESPONSE: We need transparency now in prescription-drug pricing

Author: Colorado Politics - February 28, 2018 - Updated: February 28, 2018

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(iStock image / raufmiski)

As a Type 1 diabetic, I have a choice: inject insulin or die. Every day for the last 46 years, I have injected insulin; if I go 24 hours without it, I will die a horrible death.

When insulin was discovered in the 1920s, the patent was sold for one dollar. The researchers wanted to guarantee affordable access to insulin for anyone who needed it. One hundred years later, it’s a different story.

Why?

In 1972 when I was diagnosed, a bottle of insulin cost about $7 a bottle. It was affordable. A decade later it was $25 a bottle. In the ‘90’s, pharmaceutical companies created a new kind of insulin, saying that this would make insulin less expensive.

Despite that promise, the price started to skyrocket: Today it now costs an exorbitant $350 or more per bottle. Many diabetics need several bottles per month. At that price, the cost for me to stay alive is well over $1,400 each month. A medication that used to be affordable for all is now out of reach for many.

I also need other items that add up to over $1,000 per month: syringes and glucose test strips, insulin pump supplies, continuous glucose monitor supplies, and other related prescriptions.

At these prices, it seems that only the wealthy can afford to treat their condition. That’s morally unacceptable.

I am not wealthy, but I have always had health insurance. Despite that, at times my budget has not stretched far enough.

So I have some questions for the pharmaceutical companies:

Why does the formula of insulin I use, that has been available for over 25 years, not come in a generic option?

In the Medicaid program, it is categorized as a “penny per unit” medication. Why can’t it be available for the rest of us at a less expensive cost?

The corporations know when they are going to raise the price. Why can’t they give us some advance notice?

And besides creating massive profits for their shareholders and CEOs, what’s the justification for these price hikes?

All of us with diabetes deserve answers. All Coloradans facing exorbitant prices for our prescriptions deserve answers. Other than telling us how much to pay, drug companies don’t tell us much.

Without more information, without transparency from “Big Pharma,” I am powerless. Being kept in the dark means I can’t budget appropriately for my family and I have to guess what this next year’s out-of-pocket costs will be.

Drug pricing transparency won’t solve all the cost problems, but it’s a start.

If the price of my life-saving prescriptions is going to skyrocket even more, I simply want to know, in advance, how much, and when, and most of all, why. That’s a reasonable request.

I hope state legislators agree and that they will support House Bill 18-1260 addressing this issue.

Gail deVore
Denver

Colorado Politics

Colorado Politics

Colorado Politics, formerly The Colorado Statesman, is the state's premier political news publication, renowned for its award-winning journalism. The publication is also the oldest political news outlet in the state, in continuous publication since 1898. Colorado Politics covers the stories behind the stories in Colorado's state Capitol and across the Centennial State, focusing on politics, public policy and elections with in-depth reporting on the people behind the campaigns — from grassroots supporters to campaign managers and the candidates and issues themselves.