Drs. Banting and Best must be rolling in their graves. Linda McQuaig writes:
In the 1920s, Canada became world-renowned for discovering insulin and providing it at very low cost to Canadians and diabetics around the world.
Yet today, this iconic achievement lies in ruins; millions of diabetics in Canada and elsewhere are at the mercy of multinational drug companies that have dramatically jacked up the price of the miracle drug, which many diabetics need to survive.
This is exactly what Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best desperately sought to avoid when they generously handed the patent for their insulin discovery over to U of T and its Connaught Labs, which was committed to ensuring insulin would benefit humankind, not corporate investors.
Things changed when Big Pharma discovered how to produce genetically engineered insulin rather than animal based insulin -- and when Brian Mulroney sold Connaught Labs to French drugmaker Sanofi:
Starting in the 1980s, multinational drug companies Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and later Sanofi got around patent restrictions by producing a genetically engineered form of insulin. The new insulin turned out to be much more expensive and posed serious risks -- including even death -- for some users.
Even so, the three companies soon phased out the old, animal-based insulin they'd long been producing under Connaught guidelines. They also drove small producers of the old insulin out of business and took over 95 per cent of the world market with the new insulin.
Today insulin costs an individual about $2500 a year -- "roughly five times the 1985 cost (adjusted for inflation)."
Now Justin Trudeau has given Sanofi $470 million dollars from taxpayers to re-establish a production facility in Canada.
Disaster Capitalism marches on.