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Re: [IP] Generic insulin

On 7 Jan 00, at 20:32, email @ redacted wrote:

> I have a question about insulin not having a generic.  It seems that insulin 
> is an "old drug," and should have the patents run out and a generic 
> available.  How long can companies keep the drug to themselves?  It is a 
> hardship to many to have to pay such a high price for insulin.  I realize 
> that Humalog may still be restricted but the others NPH, Regular, and Lente, 
> etc. have been around for years.  Also, the price goes up constantly.  I'm in 
> a Medicare HMO and Medicare does give insulin to diabetics, then why am I 
> charged for a name brand prescription co-pay of $15.  New this year.  I would 
> appreciate anyone explaining this to me.

Until Humalog came out none of the insulin preparations were 
considered "drugs" - they were all considered hormone extracts 
and as such were "generics" as they were.  Then along came the 
genetically engineered insulins, and with them all that was different 
was that they had slightly different manufacturing paths but again 
were all "generic"...  Humalog is different, because it is a modified 
form of human insulin and it is covered by patents, trade secrets 
and other intellectual property laws.  The catch is that all "insulins" 
except for Humalog are considered "generic"... and for some quirky 
reason nobody is making insulin in a plain, unlabelled vial.  That's 
what most of the generics are - either made overseas and shipped 
in or made here and packaged without the trade name.  Other 
generics are actually a slightly different compound or mix that has 
the same pharmaceutical usage.  It will probably have a different 
binder or other additives too.  Several of the drug companies are 
"chomping at the bit" because the patents on Claritin runs out in 
the near future - I read where some of them are ready to put their 
"generic" on the market as soon as they can because they want to 
cash in on the backlash when their generic sells for .50 per tablet 
where the "name brand" can go for three times as much...

I remember back when I was diagnosed and the pharmacist told 
me that the drug companies were getting concerned about being 
able to supply enough insulin for the demand.  That's why they all 
got into the genetically engineered insulins - the demand looked 
like it was going to exceed the supply...  maybe we need to look at 
what insulin cost per vial in 1975, 1980, 1985 and so on and then 
adjust for inflation.

The problem is that the insurance companies and other providers 
have been trying to eliminate "low cost" items, and insulin seems 
to fall in this category for some of them.  At the rate that many of 
us use it, we don't understand their reasoning, but they seem to be 
comparing insulin at $2.50 per day to some of the "expensive" 
drugs that cost $250/dose and require multiple dosages...  so for a 
"cost cutting" or "cost sharing" measure they are trying to shift the 
cost back to us.  It doesn't make it any easier to pay, just slightly 
more understandable...

Rev. Randall Winchester
WD4HVA (email @ redacted)
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