Dear Governor Baker,
We, the undersigned health professionals, call on you to take action against the rising price of insulin in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The scientists who discovered insulin sold their rights for $1 in order to ensure this life-saving drug would be available to all who need it. Unfortunately, the companies that now produce insulin have not honored this spirit, and the price of insulin has increased well out of proportion to inflation. In the last 15 years, different insulins, produced by different companies, have increased in price by greater than 500% while total and healthcare inflation have increased 8.3% and 46% respectively.
The situation is worsened by the complicated insurance system and the advent of pharmacy benefit managers for commercial insurance, making co-pays unmanageable. For Medicare patients, they start with a deductible that they must overcome, then once they’ve reached the so-called “donut hole,” the retail price of their insulin is not even a possibility.
Our patients struggle to afford this life-saving drug and have resorted to unsafe practices, such as buying and selling on the internet, under-dosing or omitting, or obtaining from other countries. Limiting or omitting insulin for a person with type 1 diabetes can lead to death, whereas for someone with type 2 diabetes, it will increase the risk of severe complications over the long term, decreasing the quality of life and life expectancy, and increasing overall healthcare costs of the nation. The newer analog insulins that have been developed over the last 20 years are associated with less hypoglycemia and improved overall glucose control, but physicians and patients have been forced to revert back to older human insulins due to somewhat lower costs. Younger physicians are not familiar with the use of these insulins as they have fallen out of favor. All of this contributes to clinicians as a whole not being able to do what’s best for patients with diabetes.
We will stand with our patients and do what our professional responsibility demands of us. We are prepared to take action to address this problem. We call on you to do the same.
Elizabeth S. Halprin, MD
Clinical Director, Adult Diabetes, Joslin Diabetes Center
David M. Nathan, MD
Director, Diabetes Center, Massachusetts General Hospital
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Vikas Saini, MD
Co-Chair, Right Care Alliance
President, Lown Institute
Leigh H. Simmons, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Physician, Internal Medicine Associates, Massachusetts General Hospital
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