Whereas one vial of insulin costs about $30 in Canada, that same vial can go for as much as $450 in the US. This is just one example of the sky-high prices of prescription drugs in America, which have risen three times faster than inflation over the past decade.
And while generic drugs can help Americans save money, even generic drugs have seen higher-than-inflation price hikes. It is both a serious health problem and a moral problem when Americans can no longer afford the drugs they need to live.
Taking matters into its own hands, the state of California has passed a bill that would allow the state to make its own generic insulin—and other prescription drugs—to increase access to affordable medications.
“Our bill will help inject competition back into the generic drug marketplace—taking pricing power away from big pharmaceutical companies and returning it to consumers,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “California is using our market power and our moral power to demand fairer prices for prescription drugs.” Through a state-sponsored prescription drug label called Cal Rx, the state will attempt to make cheaper versions of generic drugs, or drugs that aren’t currently covered by a patent. The bill does not specify what prescription drugs the state’s health agency would create or distribute through such partnerships—officials are in the process of identifying potential medications—but it does require a partnership for “at least one form of insulin, provided that a viable pathway for manufacturing a more affordable form of insulin exists at a price that results in savings.”
California is trailblazing a new path here by taking on pharmaceutical companies head-on. If it works, it could potentially save lives and money while providing a blueprint for other states to follow.