The Recent Telephonic Survey report conducted by the Staff of two U.S Senators i.e Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal in the Month of Decembers 2019, is an eye-opener since three Market Leaders of Insulin manufacturers – Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly controlling the 80% market share has failed to provide Insulin to market despite their promises to ensure supply of the discounted authorized generic version of Insulin in the market to avoid shortage.
The report spells a cursory glance missing other market players who are equally involved making the report useful since it underpins loopholes which were neglected by only blasting only player –Eli Lilli. The reported outcome might have been very fruitful had the researches included other market players who are equally responsible in the issue those include manufacturer, insurer, doctors and pharmacies.
It was disgusting to know that despite using resources, the staff worked hard to conduct the research over the chain and no chain suppliers through the telephonic survey but the results unsatisfactory as the report targeted the only market player and provided safe passage to others deliberately providing safe cover to escape responsibility. What the authors of the report did in their findings without analyzing the supply chain process, equally shows that they failed to substantiate their argument and threw all the burden to a single actor in the market – Eli Lilly.
It is also surprising that the report did not mention anywhere that the Pharmacy Benefit Manager is also responsible including the National body -Food and Drug Administration whose responsibility has also been skipped in the report. Even Legislators skipped their responsibility to legislate against the profiteers and how to ensure accessibility in the market.
The research methodology used in the survey was inefficient that failed to give desired results rather dropped the burden on a single actor. The Manufacturer has a limited role in the supply chain –all it could do to ensure production but other factors such as pharmacies, doctors and suppliers etc are equally responsible.
The survey results were alarming since 85% of the respondents confirmed that the promised authorized generic version of the Insulin was not available in the market raising concerns for the people with diabetes that the situation was critical and abysmal. But the truth is that whether the company informed the doctors or patients about the authorized Generic insulin, Had any doctor prescribed any such drug for the patients -the report is mum over the issue.
The PBM is a great player to govern prices but in this case Insulin prices, it shows that regulator has become beneficiary leaving patients at the mercy of profiteer who are playing with the lives of the people.
It was high time the legislators, policymakers and Price regulators to be vigilant by taking initiatives against such criminal negligence that might cause serious consequences for diabetic patients in the US. The Report would have been comprehensive, had it discussed all the stakeholders without making any single player a scapegoat.
Despite pocketing millions of dollars by these Pharmaceutical companies in the US, the companies’ Up graph in the price increase, has not halted as these companies have market dominance, hence, they kept raising the prices making it impossible for Patients, Taxpayers to buy these Medicine at the relatively high price range.
The average prices were reported at $7 to $11 per patient per month. There has been a significant price hike in overall drugs including the Insulin. Alarmingly, Over 30 million American living with Diabetes, Insulin is the essential medical treatment for Diabetes. Insulin helps the body to process the Glucose obtained from Food.
The Glucose is the essential part of the body to work properly but Diabetes disrupts the natural process, as a result, Insulin is used to control diabetes and process the glucose produced by food in the human body.
According to words of Diabetes Patient “They either use Insulin or they will die because of low or Excessive glucose present in the body.
The report raised the important concern of the patients and caregivers in length that rising prices will affect the purchasing power parity of people if the price goes beyond the capacity of Patients risking their life to death if body glucose is not processed properly causing serious health complications such as nephropathy( Kidney Disease Caused by Long Diabetes ), fainting etc but failed to make their argument defence by sufficient evidence
The report heralds that given the growing public pressures, these Pharmacy companies promised to introduce the generic product Insulin to help decrease the out of pocket expenses of the Patients with Diabetes.
According to the report, Insulin Producer Eli Lilly had announced in March 2019 that it will introduce a generic version of its Rapid Action Insulin Humalog –to “Insulin Lisper” promising to keep its price lower to almost 50% to facilitate the people with Diabetes. It had also clarified that the “Insulin Lispro” will be used diabetes unlike Humalog as both drugs are same.
While going through the report, one wonders that the report is only revolving around Eli Lilly the only manufacturer while other players are absolved or not held responsible for Insulin prices hike or subsequent unavailability in the markets.
It is also debatable that authorized generic is the actual substitute of original product Humalog or not.
Furthermore, why researchers or staffers have not referred to other market players. Whether the other players have ensured the supply of Insulin to market or not just remains unanswered.
Whether the essential drug is available or not -a point that is supposed to be missing in the report. Such exceptions or omissions have made the report questionable or targeting a single market player and shifting the responsibility seems to be unjustified since Telephonic Survey seems to have fallen apart as random physical verification of the medicine may have different results as compared to telephonic survey research.
The report makes the respondents as anonymous raising doubts that whether actual respondents were taken aboard while preparing the report or not, also remains ambiguous. The report does not follow the research methodology or specific tools that might have multiplied its credibility since it missed important details. Though the report has drawn the attention of the legislators towards the key issue of availability and affordability of medicines including insulin.
By far, responsibility does not fall upon single insulin producer Eli Lily when there are three to four other Market players come under the domain of oligopoly. The excessively and expedient mention of Eli Lilli several times giving the impression that it had monopolized the insulin market. As a researcher, one must be aware that research does not allow any personal prejudice or obsession with any market player.
Drugs, especially of diabetes, often have elastic demand thus the manufacturer is under pressure to double the production to supply the elastic demanded products in Market.
Moreover, patients with cardio or diabetes are very particular to use the medicines of specific pharmacy or specific brand since they fear that if they changed the drug brand, they may have serious complications or its efficacy may be much lower as compared to the brand they have been using for a long time.
It was ironic that such negligence on the part of Insulin manufacturers, Doctors, insurers and pharmaceuticals warrant a strong legislation against Pharmaceutical companies and strict laws to govern their operation and regulate their pricing and supply chain strategies so that situation may not get out of control given the serious and essential nature of Insulin for diabetic patients.
Moreover, It was unjust on the part of respectable senators i.e Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal to blast Eli Lilly by holding it responsible for the failure to make the discounted version of authorized generic of Insulin availability and affordability issues, while absolving other market players. Since doctors advise multiple pharmacies not just stuck to singe manufacturer i.e Eli Lilly. Even the role of PBM is not referred to in the report.
All the doctors having specialization in diabetes advise insulin manufactured by various manufacturers to discourage monopoly in the Pharmaceutical Industry because it will be too difficult for policymakers to regulate and restrict the prices at approved rates. The subsidies will also help lower drug prices.
The Legislators should empower the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate prices so that people may not bear the burden of skyrocketing prices which are slipping out of consumers reach especially the essential drug “The Insulin”
FDA should bound the pharmaceutical companies to carry out mass awareness campaigns through TV, Radio and Newspapers so that people may have updates regarding drug recalls, replacements, renaming or stock availability so the inconvenience caused to both the patients and caregivers may be averted. Laws should apply to all not just apply to a single individual.
The survey indicators show the ratio of availability and unavailability as 15% and 85% which is alarming and calls for immediate measures to address the inaccessibility issues of an essential drug “The Insulin” but at the same times, results of results are misleading and skipping some key market players.