drugs healthcare

Drug Prices: The Convoluted Insulin Monopoly

Looking back in time, it’s mind-boggling to think about how Big Pharma pricing became so far out of control. Insulin therapy, presently in mainstream high supply and demand, used to be a cutting-edge treatment that was difficult to create. The three person team that created a way to generate insulin recognized the need for this therapy and wanted to ensure the public could access it safely. They put their words into motion and sold the patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for $1 (“Insulin’s Inventor Sold the Patent”, 2017). The university, years later, gave the rights royalty-free to Big Pharma. At the time, Banting and his team just wanted it available for the public good and thought that by not charging royalties to Big Pharma, they’d keep the prices low. In the meantime, the processing of synthetic insulin was perfected making it easier to produce, and the price increased. Green and Riggs state:

The history of insulin highlights the limits of generic competition as a public-health framework. Nearly a century after its discovery, there is still no inexpensive supply of insulin for people living with diabetes in North America, and Americans are paying a steep price for the continued rejuvenation of the oldest of modern medicines.

(“Insulin’s Inventor Sold the Patent”, np, 2017)

This further demonstrates that no one should ever underestimate the power of Big Pharma.


Insulin’s Inventor Sold the Patent for $1. Then Drug Companies Got Hold of It.. (2017). The Other 98%. Retrieved from