This year, the state of California put up $100 million to produce its own insulin, and sell it for cheap. How’s it going to work? (Is it going to work?)  

The price of insulin could be the starkest example of our out-of-control health care system: More than 7 million Americans need it to survive, and some die because they can’t afford it, medicine that’s been around for 100 years, medicine its discoverers didn’t want to patent. 

We look at how California’s plan came to be, and what might stand in the state’s way. 

Here’s a transcript of this episode.

Further listening:

  • How insulin got so horribly expensive was one of the first stories we covered on this show. Here’s that story– a version we ran in 2021, including updates on what citizen-scientists, hackers, and activists are up to.
  • One of the biggest possible obstacles to California’s plan is the power of middleman companies called pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. We unpacked their role, their power, and the profits they make when drug prices are high, in this 2019 episode. 
  • and here’s a deep dive on the devious, clever games among PBMs, pharma companies, and insurance companies , games where we, people who need medicine, always lose. Here’s that story.  
  • Finally, the lobbying power of the pharmaceutical industry was a big topic in the episode we released just three weeks ago.

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