Photos by Alex Welsh
What You Need to Know
- The Open Insulin Project, a biohacker collective that is trying to produce the life-saving drug and provide it to people with diabetes for free, or close to it.
- Diabetes has become the most expensive disease in the United States, reaching $327 billion a year in health care costs, $15 billion of which comes from insulin.
- Open Insulin Project believes one solution to the pricing crisis lies in enabling patients and hospitals to create insulin themselves.
Can A DIY Effort Reduce the Cost of Insulin?
Insulin enables cells in the body to use glucose in the blood as fuel. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, while people with Type 2 diabetes have become resistant to it (Insulin Resistance). When we do not make enough insulin, we experience high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Over the long term can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and other fatal consequences.
Price Gouging By Big Pharma
Diabetes has become the most expensive disease in the United States, reaching $327 billion a year in health care costs. $15 billion of which comes from insulin. And the cost of insulin keeps climbing. It tripled in price from 2002 to 2013 and nearly doubled again between 2012 and 2016. For instance, in 1996, a vial of Humalog, a standard insulin produced by Eli Lilly, cost $21. Today, the list price is $324, an increase of more than 1,400%. Without insurance, costs from diabetes care can tally up to thousands of dollars per month. As a result, 25% of the 7.4 million Americans on insulin have started to ration the drug, which can result in deadly consequences.
Meet the Open Insulin Project
The Open Insulin Project hopes to change this. The group was founded in 2015 by Anthony Di Franco, a computer scientist with Type 1 diabetes, and a longtime member of the California hacker scene. At the time, Di Franco had good health insurance through an employer, so the cost of insulin wasn’t prohibitive. But the issue became personal two years later when he enrolled in graduate school and there was a temporary gap in his coverage. He ended up paying $2,400 out of pocket for a month of supplies. Significantly more than his $1,600 monthly stipend as a graduate student.
He and his collaborators think one solution to the pricing crisis lies in enabling patients and hospitals to create insulin themselves. The group works out of Counter Culture Labs in the trendy Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.
The group is considering making the recipe/formula open-source. This means they can provide it to hospitals and other patient-oriented groups that could make the insulin for themselves.
Chalk one up for the good guys.
Read the full article here and learn how you can get involved.