This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the discovery of insulin. The discovery of insulin was nothing short of miraculous. While we certainly celebrate the discoverers and their gift to the world, we will NOT be celebrating the insulin manufacturers and their greed. This is the idea behind our tagline: advocate, don't celebrate.
We cannot truly and fully celebrate until #insulin4all is a reality, and we will not applaud the pharmaceutical industry for price gouging millions of patients worldwide for a medication that costs $6 to produce. Insulin was meant to be a gift to the world but has become a posterchild of pharmaceutical industry greed. We will continue to advocate and ensure that these companies are held accountable.
Before the 1920’s, a diabetes diagnosis meant a death sentence for people all over the world. The main treatment was starvation diets to prolong the inevitable.
In 1920, a Canadian physician and scientist named Frederick Banting began working on an idea to isolate and extract insulin. He worked in the laboratories of J.R.R. McLeod, a professor of physiology at the University of Toronto. The medical student Charles Best aided him in his work to test out insulin on dogs. Chemist James Collip worked with Banting and Best to purify and refine insulin for clinical trials in humans.
On January 23rd, 1923 Banting, Best, and Collip were awarded the American patents for insulin. They sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Banting notably said: “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” His desire was for everyone who needed access to it to have it.
In order for the insulin to be mass produced and widely available, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. were given the rights to do so. While this incredible advancement was intended as a gift from the discoverers, Eli Lilly and the two other major insulin producers, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, have turned insulin into profit machines, assisting in bringing in billions of dollars in profit every year. By 1923, insulin was the highest-selling product in Eli Lilly’s history, and profits from it accounted for over half of the company’s revenue. As we know, the prices have continued to skyrocket ever since.
A gift to the world has become a tool for price gouging patients all over the world. The greed of the pharmaceutical industry is keeping insulin out of the hands of millions. This greed leads to the loss of countless lives and dampens the dream of Banting, which was to make insulin a gift that belongs to the world.