California will make its own insulin, reducing costs for diabetics

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Thursday that the state would begin producing its own insulin, lowering the price of an essential treatment that typically costs people with diabetes thousands of dollars of years to obtain.

The venture will make California the first state to produce its own drugs, a venture long reserved for private drug companies that operate under lax government oversight.

“Nothing illustrates market failures better than the cost of insulin,” Newsom said in a video announcing the project. “Many Americans are paying between $300 and $500 a month for this life-saving drug. California is now taking matters into its own hands.

The effort is included in the $308 billion state budget that Newsom signed into law last week. In it, $100 million is earmarked for insulin production contracts that will allow people with diabetes to obtain insulin “at a cheaper price, close to cost,” the governor said. Half of the funding will go towards the development of low-cost insulin products and the other half will go to an insulin manufacturing plant in California.

“In California, we know people shouldn’t go into debt to receive lifesaving drugs,” Newsom said.

Newsom’s administration previously said state-made insulin could cut insurers’ spending on treatment by 70%, The Los Angeles Times reported last month. If all goes as planned, these savings would be passed on to consumers.

For people without diabetes, the pancreas efficiently creates insulin, an essential hormone that helps the body use or store the glucose it receives from food. But diabetes disrupts this process.

For the 1.6 million Americans with type 1 diabetes, their pancreas stops making insulin and they must be injected with a manufactured version of the hormone to stay alive. Type 2 diabetes is much more common, affecting 35.4 million Americans. Although their pancreas still makes insulin, their body doesn’t always respond well to it and they may need hormone injections in some cases.

The price of the four most commonly prescribed insulins has tripled over the past decade. Experts attribute the rise to the United States’ free-market approach to pharmaceuticals in which pharmaceutical companies negotiate prices with private insurers. But Medicare, the government-sponsored insurance for people 65 and older, the biggest purchaser of drugs in the United States, is not allowed to negotiate on costs.

Pharmaceutical companies have attributed the rise in the price of insulin to the cost of developing better versions of the treatment, but many medical experts say the improvements made by the companies are incremental and out of step with the price increases.

Although California is the first to pursue its own insulin production, it is not the first to tackle the price issue. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill last year that caps insulin prices at $100 a month for anyone with a prescription, regardless of how much insulin they get. a person needs. Democrats in Congress have also proposed legislation, with the House passing a monthly insulin price cap of $35 in April. However, the proposal would only affect insured people, and Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans for it to pass in the Senate.


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