As Vox tells us, researchers and doctors who have studied insulin have a pretty clear opinion about the root cause of the problem: Companies have used the “lax regulatory environment around drug pricing” to hike up the costs of their products, from insulin to old generic drugs and EpiPens. As Jing Luo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital put it in 2017: “They are doing it because they can.”
The reason they can do it in the first place is because the U.S. lacks an England-style central regulating body — basically, a government agency that coolly negotiates the maximum prices of drugs with pharmaceutical companies, and if a company doesn’t agree on the pricing, tough luck — they’ll just lose the market. The U.S., on the other hand, relies on the free market for drug pricing, leaving the companies free to negotiate prices with a bunch of private insurers. Funnily enough, not even Medicare can help. While it is the single largest buyer of drugs in the country, and could technically play hardball with Big Pharma, it just so happens to be “barred” from price negotiations.