The travesty of expensive insulinBMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2933 (Published 02 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2933
- Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
Almost a century after its discovery insulin remains out of reach of millions of people, against the wishes of its discoverers. It’s simply too expensive a drug for a disease that makes no distinctions of class, colour, or birthplace.
Many people agree that this is shameful.1 2 It also sets a terrible precedent for newer biological drugs and raises awkward questions about the patents system and drug market. Many other drugs even a quarter of insulin’s age are now available as cheap generics. With insulin, constant reinvention and marginal improvements, combined with barriers to market entry, have enabled a few companies to maintain their grip and generate huge profits. It’s as if Bayer still owned the rights to aspirin and charged us a fiver a pill.
The price of drugs …