Chai Time delves into the issues of rising costs of insulin

Delta Epsilon Psi hosted an open discussion about the risks of insulin prices Wednesday night. The event, supported by AsAAC and held in the cultural center, included stimulating conversation, food and drink for the participants. (Nicholas Hampton/The Daily Campus)

It just so happened to be World Diabetes Day when the Asian-American Cultural Center (AsACC) hosted Delta Epsilon Psi’s final “Chai Time” of the semester Wednesday evening. These discussions are held for issues that currently affect the Asian-American community. The topics covered this week were the economy and the rising cost of insulin.

The presentation was given by Nicholas Martin, president of Delta Epsilon Psi, and Arun Narikatte, vice president and community service chair of Delta Epsilon Psi. The reason they specifically focused on rising insulin costs and their effect on the economy was because South Asians have a higher risk of dying from diabetes and “They have a higher mortality rate and they die much earlier than their Caucasian counterparts,” Narikatte, a fifth-semester molecular cell biology major, said. “That’s for Type 1 and Type 2. For Type 2 it’s more cultural, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors that increase their risk of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.” The fraternity’s philanthropy works together with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF), an organization that funds Type 1 diabetes research, to strive for a cure in the future.

The presenters gave a brief background on the issues surrounding the rising cost of insulin and its effects on not only diabetes patients, but the rest of the world. As the cost of insulin steadily increases, more and more patients end up in the hospital because they simply can’t pay for it. The reason for such high prices is because there are only three main companies that manufacture insulin: Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi. Not only this, but there is no generic form of insulin that can be bought over-the-counter. Sadly, the high cost of insulin leads to patients rationing or completely forgoing their meds, which can lead to comas or death in many cases.

“It’s definitely important to raise awareness over issues that people otherwise might not have any insight of. I’m sure that most people don’t try to look at the economic side of things...most people don’t need to for their day-to-day functions,” Martin, a third-semester cognitive sciences major with a computer science minor, said.

Although the cost of insulin is an issue for many patients who need it, the pharmaceutical industry plays a major role in the global economy. It’s responsible for about 4.4 million jobs, whether directly in larger companies or in subsidiaries that rely on the industry. There are around 208,000 jobs in research and development alone, with pharmaceutical companies spending twice as much on researching new drugs than advertising pre-existing drugs.

The presentation then opened up for discussion as various questions were presented to the audience. One person asked whether it is more important for companies to lower the cost of insulin for patients or maintain the current cost, which provides profits that can be put towards creating new life-saving drugs.

Many of the students were quiet for some time due to the complexity of the issue and the questions presented to them. However, there were many different kinds of answers, such as how likely these companies are to actually help people, instead of creating new problems.

“The crux of the issue is what people are willing to sacrifice...You need dissonance in a room to further develop collective consciousness and ideas,” Sean Mathews, a seventh-semester biology major in pre-med, said.

It’s not a matter of whether or not an answer to the rising cost of insulin can be reached immediately. Simply put, it’s important that many people from many backgrounds were present for the discussion and are raising awareness about these topics.

“Just having people from different majors is important because this isn’t just a biology issue, it’s not just an economics issue, it’s an issue that involves a very interdisciplinary approach and involves people from many different backgrounds,” Narikatte said.


Brandon Barzola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at brandon.barzola@uconn.edu.