Most of you who waste your precious time reading this blog know that I am “elderly”; I will be 73 later this year.
What you probably don’t know is that I have been a type 1 diabetic for virtually all of my life. Two shots of insulin a day for as long as I can remember.
I survived a heart attack in 1995; slept through it, got up and went to work. No massive pain. No elephant sitting on my chest. Just a small strange pain about the size of the tip of my finger in the middle of my chest. I felt like I was getting the flu; low grade fever, general aches and fatigue. I drove to work on the Jersey Turnpike at my usual 80 miles an hour. Could have killed a whole bunch of folks.
I took a few sick days but didn’t feel any better. When I wound up in the emergency room a young female cardiologist informed me I had a heart attack about a week ago, at which point my wife looked worse than I did. She was probably picturing me dead in her bed or in the front page report of the massive car crash at Exit 11 caused by a driver who died at the wheel.
I had a stroke in 2004 when she died, leaving me blind on my left. She always told me when discussing my health that “you sick bastards bury everybody!” She was right.
I had major surgery on my eyes four years ago to stop the blood vessels from leaking into the vitreous – the goop inside your eye which gives it it’s shape. Prior to the operation I was blind for about a month. Complications of the disease.
Back to diabetes.
I never expected to live this long. My mother, who had the same condition, died at 43.
Early on I took an insulin called Protomine Zinc U-40. It was manufactured from the pancreas of pigs and beef cattle. The pancreas were readily available to drug companies since no one I know eats Pancreas a la Marinara. And there were plenty of pigs and cattle going to slaughter.
So insulin was relatively inexpensive and readily available to everyone who needed it to live, whether they had medical insurance or not.
However, the 1970s brought about a game-changing innovation. Biotechnology investors set their sights on insulin, and the newest incarnation (dubbed “recombinant DNA technology”) involved inserting cloned human insulin genes into bacteria. From there, scientists began improving upon this new genetic code-derived form of the drug.
Although the other versions of the drug were still effective, they fell out of favor and off the market. The new “human” insulins were practically given away when they became available.
I remember distinctly that the insulin I take today, Novolin 70/30, was consideraly cheaper than the older pig/beef based insulins. My doctor encouraged me to change – “it’s human!”
Slowly but surely after the older insulins were driven from the market the price of human based insulin began to rise.
Today it is anywhere from $120 to $400 a bottle!
Can’t you just picture those little bacteria with cloned human genes pumping out that stuff! They are like little money machines!
Now lucky old Toritto has that socialist Medicare program and Part D, which is my coverage for drugs. A three month supply costs about $600 of which I pay $120 and the “gummit” picks up the rest – until I get into the donut hole around Thanksgiving when I buy a bottle or two out of pocket to get me to the next year.
Suppose you don’t have drug coverage?
Older versions of insulin medicines made from pork and beef sources have been off-patent for decades, yet are now gone from the American market. Why are none of these insulin products generically available in the United States today?
You know why don’t you
The cost of insulin in the United States is just too high for the uninsured leading many diabetics who can’t afford it to an earlier death.
To the patient without health insurance, paying the full price of the drug out of pocket can mean that insulin is often unattainable — and that it is all that much harder to control their diabetes. There’s a need for affordable, generic insulin in the United States.
Walmart has recently started offering an exclusive brand of low-cost insulin called ReliOn Novolin, which costs $25 a vial. “ReliOn appears to be a cheaper version of the same recombinant insulin product that Novo Nordisk sells at much higher prices to other pharmacies,” says Dr. Jeremy Greene in the New England Journal of Medicine; The higher-price version is simply called Novolin, which is what I take.
Now if this cheaper version is the same as the more expensive product why isn’t it available everywhere? You know why.
Besides, the older beef/pork based insulin is still effective and available just about everywhere in the world except America.
Why are you not surprised? Diabetes will never be cured – not so long as we can be kept alive as cash cows. Take a walk through any mall and see how many over weight teenage porkers you see living on that all-American processed food diet.
Future insulin customers.