The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they’ve worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.



via Diabetes Voice

“Four hundred million people are living with diabetes, the amount of insulin available is too low and the price is too high, so we really need to do something,” Emer Cooke, the W.H.O.’s head of regulation of medicines and health technologies, said in a statement.

Through a process called “prequalification” United Nations agencies, such as Doctors without Borders, will be able to buy approved generic versions of insulin.

The W.H.O. used similar tactics to make HIV/AIDS drugs more affordable.

In 2002, 7,000 Africans were dying every year due to AIDS because Western drug companies sold the life-saving drugs for around $15,000 a year. Now the drugs are made in countries with thriving generic drug industries and the medications cost only around $75 a year.

Rosemary Enobakhare the director of the Affordable Insulin Now campaign calls the new program “a good first step toward affordable insulin for all around the world,” but says it won’t do much to help the 30 million Americans with diabetes.

Any attempt to lower insulin prices would require “Congress to grant Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices,” she added.

Companies that made generic drugs have a hard time penetrating the U.S. market because the Food and Drug Administration imposes hefty fees for drug approvals.

Insulin is ten times cheaper in Canada because the government negotiates with manufacturers, a practice that’s illegal in the U.S.

This vial of insulin costs just $6 to manufacture.

At this pharmacy in Windsor, Ontario, it can be purchased for $32. Twenty minutes away, in Detroit, the same exact vial costs $340.

It is time for a government that works for the American people, not drug companies’ profits. pic.twitter.com/Uo2T8GG54T
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 28, 2019

Earlier in the year, the Trump Administration announced preliminary plans to allow Americans to import lower cost prescription drugs from Canada. Through the program, state governments, drug wholesalers, and pharmacies can create proposals to import the drugs that would then have to be approved by the federal government.

The catch? It would not include insulin.

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a bus full of Americans to Canada earlier this year to call attention to the out of control cost of insulin.

“Americans are paying $300 for insulin. In Canada they can purchase it for $30,” Sanders said in a tweet. “We are going to end pharma’s greed.”

This family was able to save $10,000 buying insulin for their son in Canada, where the exact same insulin is one-tenth the price.

The profits the drug companies are making ripping off the American people is scandalous, it is outrageous and it has got to end. pic.twitter.com/Rew4ftIo0o
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 29, 2019

This content was originally published here.

Antitrust Class Action Filed Against Invisalign Maker Over Alleged Dual-Market Competition Suppression

A Chicago dental practice has filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Align Technology, Inc. in which it alleges the Invisalign maker has leveraged its dominance in both the aligner and hand-held digital dental scanner markets as a means to suppress competition.

According to the 30-page suit out of Delaware federal court, Align Technology’s anti-competitive conduct has allowed it to not only artificially boost and/or maintain its market share and power, but to artificially inflate prices in both markets. The defendant’s alleged conduct, the lawsuit says, essentially amounts to a de facto bundling of its aligners and intraoral scanners that offers no corresponding discount to purchasers.

Align’s Technology’s Invisalign-brand aligners are by far the dominant product in the overall aligner market, the case begins. The defendant reportedly pulls in “well over a billion dollars per year” selling Invisalign, according to the suit.

The plaintiff charges that the defendant knew from the outset that dental practitioners’ use of digital scanners would make them more likely to use its aligners in that “once a dental practice purchases a digital scanner, that practice would be more likely to order more aligners as a way to pay for the scanner.”

“The bottom line,” the complaint reads, “was that more iTero Scanners meant more Invisalign orders.”

Since at least March 15, 2015, the defendant, the case claims, had been able to charge high prices and keep its profit margins in the black for Invisalign due to protection from “a thicket of hundreds of patents” Align Technology has supposedly wielded aggressively to “protect its aligner monopoly.” As the lawsuit tells it, however, once some of Align Technology’s key patents expired in 2017, the company was forced to turn its attention to the outside influence of competitors while keeping one eye on the lofty expectations of its investors. To juggle its predicament, the defendant “responded with the anticompetitive scheme” over which the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiff argues.

Moreover, the defendant’s possession of Invisalign-related patents, along with “other high barriers to entry” in the above-described markets, allegedly served as an effective deterrent for competitors looking to enter the market. 

“Instead of reacting to the advent of competition by improving its product or lowering its prices, Defendant worked to suppress that potential competition by using its dominance in the Aligner market to impair competition in the Scanner market, and then in turn using its dominance in the Scanner market to impair competition in the Aligner market,” the case reads.

With regard to the particulars of the defendant’s alleged competition-quashing scheme, the lawsuit says it came down to Align Technology’s production of both Invisalign and the tool with which dentists determine whether the treatment is right for a patient:

All this amounts to a de facto “closed system” that essentially makes it impractical for dental practitioners to order Invisalign aligners from other manufacturers, the case says. The defendant’s iTero scanner, according to the suit, does not accept scans in an industry-standard format nor from other scanners. The plaintiff stresses that this makes it more time-consuming and expensive for proposed class members to go outside of the framework set in place by Align Technology.

As of September 2018, Align Technology has “an over 80% share in the market for aligners in the United States and an over 80% share in the market for scanners in the United States,” the lawsuit says. With this much muscle, the defendant, the plaintiff alleges, has been able to leverage its position to inflate prices for its iTero dental scanners and Invisalign treatments.

The full complaint can be read below.

This content was originally published here.