Insulin will be made by the state of California to provide low-cost options, says Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Nothing epitomizes market failure more than the cost of insulin,” said Newsom in a Thursday statement. “Many Americans experience out-of-pocket costs anywhere from $300 to $500 per month for this life-saving drug.”
When pharmaceutical insulin was patented in 1922, it was a miracle drug, saving lives there was previously no hope for. The patent-holders sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $1, specifically to keep any company from securing “a profitable monopoly.” It was important to the creators that anyone could make it so it would be cheaply available to anyone.
Today, most users of insulin (who are lifelong users, as type 1 diabetes has no cure) report that without insurance, insulin in the U.S. costs between $300 and $800 a month. And that rise is recent. In 1999, for instance, one vial of Humalog (a brand of insulin) cost $21. In 2019, it cost $332. In Canada, notably, the price has not appreciably risen in the same period of time. A vial, which lasts most diabetics between 10 and 15 days, costs about $2.70 to make.
In 2017, the death of Alec Smith made news. Less than a month after he aged out of his mother’s insurance plan and was unable to afford his own, he died of diabetic ketoacidosis after trying to ration the insulin he had left.
Gov. Newsom’s announcement on Thursday was that California is enacting a plan to allocate $100 million in state funding to an insulin program. The money will go towards establishing a state-run manufacturer of insulin, including their own manufacturing facility.
It’s not only California concerned with insulin prices. Congress is currently reviewing a bill which would cap insulin prices at $35 a month. It passed the House’s vote in April, and is currently waiting on the Senate. 16 states also have cap laws, between $25 and $100.