For Minnesotans with type 1 diabetes, insulin is as essential for survival as oxygen or water. Going without it can be a death sentence, and the big pharmaceutical companies that produce insulin continue to take advantage of this by inflating its price to hundreds of dollars per vial. Humalog, for example, produced by Eli Lilly, surged in price from $35 per vial in 2001 to $234 in 2015.
The cost of insulin is forcing some Minnesotans with diabetes to find alternative ways of getting the medication they need to survive, like through illegal black market exchanges or by travelling across the border to Canada, where the same insulin is a fraction of the cost and available over the counter. Minnesotans are taking the risk of breaking the law just to survive.
For one Minnesotan, 26-year-old Alec Smith, insulin price gouging cost him his life.
It’s shocking that prices have risen to these levels, because the companies that produce insulin aren’t exactly strapped for cash. In 2018, Eli Lilly raked in $9 billion in profits from medications for diabetes, shelled out $6.5 billion in buybacks and dividends for wealthy shareholders, and gave their CEO a million dollar pay raise.
And after all of that, they paid $0 in federal taxes.
It’s unacceptable, and it doesn’t need to happen. Since Republicans in the legislature blocked an effort by DFLers to create an emergency insulin fund that would have held big pharma accountable, DFL Senator Tina Smith is taking action on the federal level.
Senator Smith’s bill would hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for gouging the price of insulin, and create an emergency insulin fund for those who need it.
While Senator Smith’s bill is already garnering support, it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Sign up to stay informed and help us in the fight to make insulin more affordable.