Why hasn't diabetes gotten cheaper?

Posted on 08/15/2013 in misc

My wife got her first insulin pump in 1995 or 96. Retail on it was about $5000. She got a quote for a new pump today. Retail is $5800. It's essentially the same pump, she just upgrades to the new model every 4-5 years. Granted it has mostly flat-lined against inflation. which in real terms is a cost reduction. However, can you name any other digital technology that hasn't gotten cheaper? Consumer electronics have become so cheap they are essentially disposable today. In 1995 insulin pumps were cutting edge technology used only by early adopters. Today they are standard equipment for diabetics in the West. Shouldn't all that volume had more of an impact on the price?

The assorted supplies that go with it are no better. Back when she took shots insulin was $10 a vial. Today it is $100+ a vial. The old stuff was derived from pork or beef insulin. Today's stuff is all lab grown and synthetic. It undoubtedly is better, however again why haven't prices dropped with volume? The consumables that go with the insulin pump have followed the same path. It costs about $500 a month to be a diabetic with a pump. That's \$300 for insulin and $200 for infusion sets. That hasn't changed since she started on the pump.

How does any diabetic without Cadillac health insurance afford to stay alive, let alone healthy? The pump is \$5000 retail, and the consumables are about $500 a month. Who can afford that?

Competition is one big issue. Medtronic must have an 80% market share. They have very aggressively used patent law to eliminate their competitors. There are no generic test strips for the meters. There used to be. They were sued out of existence. The entire industry is basically a cartel run by Medtronic for the benefit of their shareholders. I doubt patient well being is even considered. My wife is sure that if a cure of Type I diabetes is found, it's release will be delayed years as Medtronic sues for interference with their business plan. With billions and billions being made managing the disease, where is the incentive to cure it in a capitalistic economy?

Click to comment, reply, or complain via email

I like hearing from readers, all three of you! Nobody comments on blogs anymore, and I'd rather not use Facebook or Twitter as a comment system so it's back to the email.