By Randy Schmidt | Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Dec. 6, 2019
“We are not attacking corporations, but endeavoring to do away with any evil in them.”
– Theodore Roosevelt,
1902 State of the Union address
World Diabetes Day is the primary global awareness campaign of the International Diabetes Federation, held each Nov. 14. The day marks the discovery of insulin in 1922 by a team of researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada. Insulin now saves the lives of millions of diabetes sufferers around the world – or at least the lives of those who can afford insulin. The university researchers gave away the patent to their discovery, saying it would be unethical to profit from a discovery that will save millions of lives.
They helped set the pattern that would be repeated by research scientists throughout the 20th century. When Drs. Jonas Salk and Louis Sabin developed vaccines that ended the worldwide scourge of polio, they refused to patent their discoveries, reasoning that they were already being paid salaries by their universities.
Boy, how times have changed.
The Eli Lilly Corp., based in Indianapolis, holds the patent for a popular new form of synthetic insulin it developed. The costs of all forms of insulin in the USA have tripled over the past decade, for no good reason other than Big Pharma corporations having the ability to raise them with no government oversight. Eli Lilly raked in nearly $600 million in profits last year, and paid zero in federal taxes. They pay their CEO a $20 million annual salary.
Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Each month, more and more patients with diabetes and other chronic illnesses are skipping doses, or not filling their prescriptions, simply because they cannot afford them – often with fatal consequences.
A bill before Congress that would address the runaway prices of the for-profit drug industry is set for debate in early December. Under HR3, the secretary of health and human services would be able to negotiate lower prices for as many as 250 of the most expensive drugs covered by Medicare, including insulin.
Those lower prices would also be available to all insurance plans in the country. Pharmaceutical corporations that refuse to come to the negotiating table would be subject to steep tax penalties.
Regulating the prices that corporations charge for services affecting the health and welfare of the public is nothing new. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 limited the overhead costs insurance companies could pass on to consumers – some as high as 27% – to a maximum of 18%. And the rates private corporations in states such as Indiana can charge for public utilities are also highly regulated.
On this year’s World Diabetes Day, Faith in Indiana chose the sprawling Eli Lilly headquarters on Delaware Street in Indianapolis as the location for its “Prayer for Affordable Insulin” news conference and vigil.
A multi-denominational group of progressive religious communities, Faith in Indiana has partnered with organized labor, Health Care For America Now, the Alliance for Retired Americans and other community activists to promote a health care system that places people over profits. These groups are united in advocating for the passage of HR3.
In addition to leaders from these advocacy groups, protesters listened to remarks by several Indianapolis religious leaders. Following their remarks and media interviews, attendees joined hands and were led in a moment of prayer.
President Theodore Roosevelt was known by his contemporaries as “The Great Trustbuster,” who took on corporate greed and power during the first decade of the 20th century. He was both revered and reviled for his efforts, and was often branded a closeted socialist by his foes.
But his determination to fight corporate malfeasance in America earned him a spot on Mount Rushmore, alongside Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington.
I wonder how he would have felt about the politics of this century. I can’t say. But I suspect he would have been cheering us on as we spoke about corporate greed outside the Eli Lilly campus on World Diabetes Day.
Randy Schmidt, a Fort Wayne resident, is president of the Indiana Alliance for Retired Americans Educational Fund.