Scientists began investigating how to produce insulin using the Pancreas from dogs and cattle over a century ago. Since then, insulin has been used to treat diabetics, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that genetic engineering enabled mass distribution of this life-saving treatment. Insulin is a hormone produced by the Pancreas that regulates glucose levels in the bloodstream in a healthy human body.
However, because a diabetic’s body cannot manufacture insulin naturally, the body cannot store glucose for later use as energy in fat cells. As a result, fat cells break down and overproduce keto acids, the chemical components responsible for turning glucose into energy, resulting in acid levels that the liver cannot handle. If a person with diabetes does not have access to insulin, the acid imbalance can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal illness. This is why people with diabetes must closely monitor their insulin levels and take medication to stay alive.
Pharmaceutical companies are believed to spend $5 to $6 every vial of insulin to manufacture, but they can sell vials for $180 to $400 due to a sophisticated web of laws. Costs are always on the rise. Between 2002 and 2013, insulin prices tripled, then doubled between 2012 and 2016.