‘People are Dying’: Bernie Sanders Heads To Canada With An Insulin Caravan

Common Dreams (7/28/19)

Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is heading to Canada on Sunday with a caravan of Type 1 diabetes patients seeking cheaper insulin to highlight the “corruption” of pharmaceutical companies and the toll taken on Americans who can’t afford the medicine.

CTV News reported:

“(Sanders) waved to crowds as he entered the Olde Walkerville Pharmacy in Windsor, Ont. on Sunday.

“Sanders stood next to a mother who said she spends roughly US $1,500 a month for insulin for her son. But in Windsor, she paid US $1,000 for a six-month supply.

“A vial of insulin which Type 1 diabetics use to regulate their blood sugar costs about US $340 in the United States — roughly 10 times the Canadian price. An American Diabetes Association spokesperson previously told CTVNews.ca the average price of insulin has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013.”

“People are dying,” Sanders earlier told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” in an interview hosted from Detroit, Michigan.  He said the cost of insulin in the US has “soared in recent years” and “there is strong evidence that there is price fixing, that these companies simultaneously raise the prices at outrageous levels far, far, far more than the cost of production.”

He accused drug company executives of “corruption” and “unbelievable greed.” In Canada, he said, insulin is “one-tenth of the price.”

“One out of four people are rationing their insulin, and people are dying. That is unacceptable in the United States of America,” he claims.

Sanders said if elected president, “we’re going to take on the pharmaceutical industry, we’re going to have an attorney general who is going to deal with the incredible concentration of ownership and we’re going to use anti-trust legislation.”

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The Inventors Of Insulin Sold Their Patent For A Buck. Why Is It Now So Expensive That People Are Dying?

By Lloyd Alter
Treehuggger (3/21/19)

On March 22, 1922, the discovery of insulin was announced. Here’s what happened after.

A few years earlier, on March 22, 1922, Banting and his co-discover Charles Best announced the discovery of insulin, described in the Toronto Star as a “diabetes cure.” But it wasn’t a cure, it is just a replacement for the insulin that diabetics are not producing themselves, and they have to keep taking it forever.

Fortunately, Banting and Best thought it should be available for everyone, so they sold the patent to the University of Toronto for one dollar. According to the Canadian Encyclopaedia: “Arguably one of Canada’s greatest contributions in the area of medical research, the discovery of insulin completely transformed the treatment of diabetes, saving millions of lives worldwide.”

So on this 97th anniversary of its public announcement, why are there headlines like “Americans are dying because they can’t afford their insulin”? Bernie Sanders wondered this too, although he got the dates wrong:

“Today in 1922, researchers at the University of Toronto announced the discovery of insulin. They sold the patent for $1 so it would be available to all,” he wrote. “97 years later, Eli Lilly is charging ~$300 and Americans die because they can’t afford their medication. Outrageous.”

In Canada, that same insulin costs $32. What’s happening here?

It turns out that in 1972 the University of Toronto sold Connaught Labs, which made insulin, to the Canada Development Corporation, which sold it to Sanofi, which is now one of the big producers. In 1982 Eli Lilly started selling genetically engineered synthetic insulin, and now, according to Wikipedia, “The vast majority of insulin currently used worldwide is now biosynthetic recombinant ‘human’ insulin or its analogues.”

OK, but even that patent would have expired. Except the companies keep making changes. According to T1International,

“Pharmaceutical companies take advantage of loopholes in the U.S. patent system to build thickets of patents around their drugs which will make them last much longer (evergreening). This prevents competition and can keep prices high for decades. Our friends at I-MAK recently showed that Sanofi, the maker of Lantus, is no exception. Sanofi has filed 74 patent applications on Lantus alone, that means Sanofi has created the potential for a competition-free monopoly for 37 years.”

So in the USA they can charge whatever they think they can get away with. …

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