“Investigate Insulin Now” Launches to Take Aim at Deadly Insulin Cartel
Washington, D.C. — With roughly 1 in 4 diabetic Americans unable to afford the insulin they need to survive, a coalition of 43 advocates and economic justice organizations today launched “Investigate Insulin Now.” The new organizing campaign, featured on InvestigateInsulinNow.com, is spotlighting how three companies — Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi — have colluded with one another to hike insulin prices in lockstep for years, and demanding policymakers at the Federal Trade Commission investigate and prosecute this deadly pharmaceutical cartel. Next week, the campaign will be hosting an event on the issue featuring Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45).
“Just three manufacturers produce all of the insulin in the United States, meaning people who use insulin are powerless in the face of these corporations’ greed,” said Olivia Webb, a policy analyst at the American Economic Liberties Project. “Americans with insulin-dependent diabetes fear turning 26, when they no longer have access to their parents’ health insurance; many are forced into rationing insulin, some die. And all so these three corporations can keep raking in profits.”
Approximately 7.4 million Americans need insulin daily to survive. That’s partly why in 1923, when the drug was discovered, its inventors sold their patent for just $1. Their hope was that insulin would be available to all who needed it. Instead, because three companies — Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk — now control nearly 100% of the American supply of insulin and illegally work together to raise the price of insulin in tandem, the drug is criminally expensive. When one company increases the price of insulin, the others do too — often within 24 hours. For example, there were at least 13 tandem prices increases between Sanofi and Novo Nordisk just between 2009 and 2016.
“Since my diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 1996 at 14 years old, competitors Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi illegally conspired to raise insulin prices in lockstep. The price of my insulin has increased from $21/vial to $275/vial since my diagnosis, and a month of my insulin is priced at $750. Without insulin, 7 million Americans like me die an excruciating death in 48-72 hours. We are counting on the FTC to investigate insulin price-fixing and hold the three insulin manufacturers accountable,” said Laura Marston, co-founder of the Insulin Initiative.
Across the country, Americans with diabetes who cannot afford their insulin are rationing their use to get by. The results are tragic. At least 13 Americans have died from rationing insulin in recent years, and many more deaths due to rationing are likely unreported. Through its campaign website, public petition, and letter to the Federal Trade Commission, Investigate Insulin Now is highlighting these stories, and calling on regulators to investigate the insulin cartel’s pattern of collusion and prosecute those responsible.
The campaign is also drawing attention to the ways the insulin cartel’s price-gouging has amplified existing racial inequities in the health care system. Black and brown Americans are more likely than white Americans to develop diabetes and need insulin. At the same time, they are less likely to have access to quality health care services, and more likely to experience serious diabetes-related health complications. Amputations, which are an all-too-common consequence of untreated diabetes, are now soaring in the Black community with Black Americans more than three times more likely to need an amputation than white Americans.
“This insulin cartel is directly responsible for people dying. We can’t allow another generation of people to be denied life saving medication in sole service of big pharma profits. The FTC must act to protect Black folk, poor folk and others that desperately need affordable insulin,” said Maurice BP-Weeks, the Co-Executive Director of Action Center on Race & the Economy (ACRE) and one of the signatories of the letter.
“Year after year, the insulin cartel raises prices in lockstep with impunity. Their greed is killing people — and forcing millions more to spend every last penny they have to afford the insulin that they need to live,” said Alex Lawson, the Executive Director of Social Security Works and one of the signatories of the letter.
Campaign partners include: Action Center on Race and the Economy; American Economic Liberties Project; Center for Popular Democracy; Community Change; Demand Progress Education Fund; Health Global Access Project; I-MAK; In the Public Interest; Liberation in a Generation; Lower Drug Prices Now; Open Markets Institute; Patients for Affordable Drugs; Progressive Doctors; Public Citizen; Revolving Door Project; Social Security Works; T1International; The Democracy Collaborative; The Insulin Initiative; Universities Allied for Essential Medicines; A. Nicole Nichols; Allie Marotta; Allison E. Bailey; Audrey C. Farley, PhD; Bryan J. Greth; Clayton McCook, DVM, MS; Hannah M. Crabtree; Jeff Dunlop; John S. Tagliareni; Kevin E. Wren; Laura K. Marston, Esq.; Lauren E. Figg, LMSW; Lori S. Ruder, DNP; Madelyn A. Corwin; Mallory L. Lorge; Melinda M. Wedding; Nellie Kassebaum; Nicole M. Hood; Nicole M. Smith-Holt; Sarah J. Stark; Sarah L. Ferguson; Sierra A. Sandison; and Ted A. Closson.
The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.