As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, starting this ‘patch’ business seemed somewhat soulless if we weren’t going to give back to the community. When I was thinking through the possibilities of where Not Just a Patch should contribute, it became plainly obvious that ‘Insulin Access for All’ was the right choice.
I was diagnosed 13 years ago. I was 30 years old, living in London and having a great old time. Over a few weeks I started peeing excessively, getting thirsty as hell and then my eyesight went blurry. I went to a GP and she said that my ketones were through the roof and that I had diabetes and needed to go to the hospital immediately. Weirdly, I felt ‘fine’…but she insisted I go to the hospital. I did. They did some more tests and informed me that I had diabetes, gave me some insulin and a few dietary tips and said “good-luck”.
I just got on with it, I never really paused to think or process what had happened, and I never really engaged with the ‘diabetes community’ until recently. On reflection, I am grateful that this happened in a health system (The NHS) that is designed to support diabetics, I can only imagine the challenges I’d have faced had I been living in a country where the health system was not so supportive.
Insulin was first given successfully to a human at the University of Toronto on January 11, 1922. An injection of bovine insulin was administered to 14-year-old Leonard Thompson by endocrinologist Frederick Banting, who had been researching ways of extracting insulin from the pancreas. The boy suffered an allergic reaction to the first injection, but further work improved the extract. A second injection administered a few weeks later was successful. It’s somewhat awe inspiring to consider the number of people who’ve been impacted by this discovery. It’s equally frustrating that almost 100 years later, systems still exist that don’t find a way to ensure socially responsible and fair access to those in need.
The Australian health system (Medicare) also heavily subsidises the costs of being a Type 1 Diabetic (T1D). By investing in population health, Australia is investing in its primary resource – us! They’re also reducing the long-term burden of healthcare spending. If we don’t design a system that ensures equitable access to insulin, T1Ds will inevitably develop morbidities and complications, increasing the burden on the health system.
But, it’s not the only (or the best) reason to ensure fair and equitable access to insulin.
The best reason is….basic human rights. The time has long passed that pharmaceutical companies have recovered their costs, and then some. In saying that, insulin is a biologic agent rather than a chemically synthesised molecule, it can’t be made as a generic and to make biosimilars does cost a lot more than making a generic. This is where we could traverse the rabbit hole that is socialism vs capitalism. In a very basic sense, part of the reason the US has such an issue with fair access to insulin is the cultural and political inclination to avoid interrupting a company’s ‘rights’ to rake in as much cash as possible at the expense of all else.
Governments can step in and enforce limits and that’s what the Australian government does.
The United States sits further down the capitalistic spectrum and hence has a health system that gives profit too much credence, thus, the system suffers from not investing in medicines like better access to insulin and this means that the cost per head on health expenditure is double that of Australia, UK, Japan and Canada.
Now, let’s be clear I am not anti-pharma at all. It would be great to see as much data published for the good they do as is published for the bad. I’m an advocate for pharmaceutical companies because they save millions of lives a year with amazing medicines and let’s be honest, who hasn’t popped a pill of some sort in the last few months? Bashing pharma companies isn’t the answer. They just play within the rules (mostly 😉).
It’s the rules that need examining and the frameworks within which pharma operate and the pressure that governments need to apply to ensure that social good is elevated – that’s where progress lies.
In summary, it’s just not fair that any T1D who isn’t fortunate enough to have the right insurance or to be able to afford insulin, should be sparing or rationing their doses. These people need help and support, and therefore 10% of Not Just a Patch profits go to support ‘Insulin Access for All’.
So, when you are purchasing your next Not Just a Patch for your Freestyle Libre or your Dexcom or your MiaoMiao…. know that you’re also giving some small support for those less fortunate.