Why aren’t we seeing more companies making insulin? There are many reasons for this, but patent evergreening is a big one. Patents give a person or organization a monopoly on a particular invention for a specific period of time. In the USA, it is generally 20 years. Humalog, Lantus and other previous generation insulins are now off patent, as are even older animal based insulins. So what’s going on? Pharmaceutical companies take advantage of loopholes in the U.S. patent system to build thickets of patents around their drugs which will make them last much longer (evergreening). This prevents competition and can keep prices high for decades. Our friends at I-MAK recently showed that Sanofi, the maker of Lantus, is no exception. Sanofi has filed 74 patent applications on Lantus alone, that means Sanofi has created the potential for a competition-free monopoly for 37 years.
More here, and yes there are a multiple of reasons, not just that one. Such as this:
… it is actually legal for one insulin producer to pay another one not to enter the market. A few years ago the company Merck announced plans to sell a biosimilar version of Sanofi’s Lantus. Sanofi sued, and eventually Merck announced that it was no longer pursuing it’s biosimilar, presumably due to payments from Sanofi to stay away.
…Sanofi has filed lawsuits against both Merck and Mylan to prevent them from going to market with a generic lantus insulin (the Sanofi blockbuster drug).
According to the Food and Drug Administration, “in most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use.”
New bills by Peter Welch, Elijah Cummings, and Bernie Sanders would ease those restraints. It seems easy enough to address this problem without having systematic government purchases of pharmaceuticals. Insulin prices have risen as much as threefold over the last ten years, but that doesn’t have to be the case.