A stack of dollars is shown next to insulin pens to show how expensive the medication is for people with diabetes.Share on Pinterest
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The headlines this week are abuzz with news about Civica RX, a Utah-based nonprofit drugmaker aiming to sell new generic insulin at a fraction of current prices. Although the product won’t be ready until 2024, and it still needs to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the diabetes community is excited.

Aaron Kowalski, CEO of the national advocacy organization JDRF who lives with type 1 diabetes himself, reached out to DiabetesMine with the below Op-Ed piece.

Aaron Kowalski

Enough is enough! Imagine if you had a health condition, for which you must take medication every single day, or else you die. You are unemployed because of COVID-19, leaving you uninsured. On top of that, the medication has not gone down in price (as usually happens when the patent expires), but up threefold, and continues to do so.

What happens when you have to choose between paying rent or getting this lifesaving drug? What happens when you are the one-quarter of people rationing or skipping your medication, putting you at risk of serious health complications or death, because of these inflated costs?

Yes, I’m talking about insulin, which 7.4 million Americans take in order to live, including me.

As emphasized by President Biden in his (March 2, 2022) State of the Union speech, for many Americans with diabetes, out-of-pocket costs are outrageously high, deductibles can be thousands of dollars, and for those with no insurance, life-sustaining insulin can consume a major chunk of monthly income.

For individuals like 13-year-old Joshua Davis, who attended the State of the Union address and bravely navigates life with type 1 diabetes to a senior citizen on a fixed income with type 2 diabetes or an expecting mother with gestational diabetes, cost should not be a barrier to healthy living. This is outrageous, and solutions are needed now!

JDRF and our community of volunteers have been fighting the rising cost of insulin for years, advocating for both private sector solutions and legislature in Washington, D.C. We have rallied together to call for insulin manufacturers, health plans, employers, and the government to take action to lower the cost of this lifesaving medication. Collectively, we have met repeatedly with the leadership of each of the three major insulin manufacturers and called on them to find new ways to lower the price.

Until now, these were not enough to keep the prices of insulin down. But I think we have an answer: Civica Rx.

Civica, a nonprofit generic pharmaceutical company, was created to reduce and prevent drug shortages and the price spikes that can accompany them. Its mission: To make quality generic medicines accessible and affordable to everyone. The company has demonstrated the ability to change the market and lower the price of high priced drugs. Take, for example, the antibiotic drug daptomycin. When Civica entered the daptomycin market, a vial of it was over $200. Today, Civica sells daptomycin for $25.41 a vial, representing an 87 percent decrease in price.

That’s ultimately what the diabetes community wants for insulin, which can cost between $175 and $300 a vial, making the cost nearly $1,000 per month.

Civica will make its insulin options available at $30/vial, regardless of insurance status.

How does it do this?

Biosimilars are the answer!

Biosimilars are biologic drugs that are almost an identical copy of the original drug product, which can be manufactured once the original drug patent expires. Fortunately, three of the most-prescribed insulins — lispro (Humalog), aspart (Novolog), and glargine (Lantus) — have expired.

Solutions like the Civica program can encourage real structural change and drive insulin-makers, payers, and distributors to take action to meet more affordable price points. This initiative also holds the potential to disrupt the current U.S. drug pricing system, which could possibly reduce insulin prices even earlier.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Until changes come, no one should choose between life and risking death because they cannot access or afford the proper medicine needed. With Civica, they won’t have to.