The Price of Living

Rising prices of insulin are posing risks to diabetics in the US

Photo courtesy of American Diabetes Association

Photo courtesy of American Diabetes Association

Elizabeth Hahn, Staff Writer

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In today’s society, diabetics in the United States are struggling to pay for the one thing that is keeping them alive: insulin.

For example, Alec Holt, a 26 year old diabetic from Minnesota, was taken off his parents insurance. He was unable to pay for his insulin on top of all the other supplies needed to take care of his diabetes. Holt began to ration insulin in order to have enough to use each day. Diabetics have to take certain amounts of this drug depending on the food they eat. Rationing it just isn’t sufficient. Holt died in his apartment from ketoacidosis, a complication of high blood sugar causing the body to create an influx of blood acids called ketones. This happened because he couldn’t afford something that he needed to stay alive. The rising costs of this drug have been a continued issue that has affected so many lives. Some diabetics have completely stopped buying insulin, which poses a huge risk to their health and could lead to major consequences.

According to a USA Today article “Struggling to stay alive: Rising insulin prices cause diabetics to go to extremes” and a study by the Health Care Cost Institute, insulin prices nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016. People were paying an average of $5,705 for a drug that keeps them alive. Diabetics pay monthly for their insulin, so the price in 2016 would’ve been over $400 a month. As this price rises, less and less people are able to afford something that sustains their life. Diabetics all over the United States are affected by this, and it will continue to affect them their whole lives. The prices have continued to rise in 2019.

This issue is worrying for many parents with children who have diabetes.

A parent can only take care of their kid for so long. After moving out, young adults are expected to be able to keep themself alive all on their own. This may seem easy for a healthy person, but it can be incredibly hard for diabetics. In college, it’s hard for students to stay out of debt and still be able to afford all their daily necessities. The risk of debt is on a different level for diabetics, as they have to pay for the extremely expensive insulin that keeps them alive. With insurance, the price would be slightly more bearable, however, for new adults with no insurance, this price could be described as life threatening.

These high prices can cause people to act in very dangerous ways.

Some diabetics have resorted to not taking their insulin. This poses huge risks to their health. Insulin balances out their blood sugar levels, ensuring that they don’t go too high or too low. Type one diabetics can’t live without this drug. Without the use of insulin in their lives, their bodies would scramble to make new energy out of fat and other things that aren’t meant for it. In the absolute worst cases, not using insulin can lead to amputations, blindness, comas and even death. Type two diabetics can plan out the food they eat in order to ensure that the lack of insulin they are taking doesn’t affect them. Without insulin, type one diabetics are basically defenseless in what could happen to them.

Another way diabetics are avoiding the high price of insulin is by smuggling it from across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Prices in these countries are significantly lower than those in the United States, however, this is dangerous because the quality of this insulin is unknown. People could be buying a botched batch. In fact, an article from Kaiser Health News titled Americans Cross Border Into Mexico To Buy Insulin At A Fraction Of U.S. Cost”, the World Health Organization estimated that 10% of drugs in developing countries were either substandard or falsified.

People are standing up against these high prices and pushing for change.

Perhaps the biggest organization that is advocating for lower insulin prices is the American Diabetes Association. A petition can be found on their website, which has already received 480,029 signatures. Many diabetics post under #Insulin4All hoping that this will gain attention from the people who can make changes to these prices. Protests have happened all over the US in order to advocate for a more affordable price of this drug. Another way people are trying to make change is speaking to the representatives of their state to enact legislative change for more regulation on pharmaceutical companies and the prices they are setting. All these people coming together for this cause will hopefully bring positive outcomes.

People with diabetes are putting their lives at risk because they can’t afford a drug that is the only thing keeping them alive. Others without diabetes are fortunate enough to have a working pancreas that produces insulin, so these prices will never affect them. Diabetics are struggling to stay alive. They go to extreme lengths to avoid how high the prices have gotten. It is unfair that these people have to pay so much for something that they need to survive. Many people all over are seeking change. The government needs to regulate these prices, making them affordable for every diabetic in the US. Major pharmaceutical companies need to decide what’s more important: money or a human’s life.

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