Edits to original draft: I was able to interview Dr.Hersperger and add his information to clarify the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. My fourth interview with Sheila Hogue is today (2/21/17) so I hope to be able to add her information before this is graded. If not I understand. I also tried to reorganize certain aspects of the story while tightening up the ending to be more clear.
On Monday, Jan. 30 a group of diabetics filed a lawsuit against Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, three insulin-producing companies for raising prices in order to benefit and make a larger profit with the pharmacies that sell their product. The repercussion of this action leads people with and without insurance to pay large sums of money monthly in order to survive. A research study by The JAMA Network stated,”In 2013, per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized nations.”
In relevance to insulin, The New York Times explains, the price of insulin has tripled from 2002 to 2013. A study from 2002 to 2013 proves the New York times article accurate.”Over the study period, the cost of insulin per person more than tripled, from $231 a year to $736 a year and that is mostly with insurance. And in 2016, with the newly introduced insulins, the cost can go well over $6,000-$7,000 a year,” This was calculated in a study by Dr. William H. Herman of the University of Michigan. In a private study performed in 2014 by a diabetic focused blog, just the cost of technology, supplies, and insulin without insurance is $11,261.28-$23,348.47 for a years supply. See the study here to judge its accuracy due to it being privately performed.
“In this monopoly situation, it is sad when patients have to decide on if they should eat or not to pay for a heating bill rather than the medical supplies needed to maintain their health,” said Wesner, the associate dean of students and director of the Gable Health Center at Albright College.
Sheila Hogue and employee of Albright College has a son who was diagnosed over five years ago. At the moment they are financially secure because her son is under 18, so Medicaid covers the present copays. Denise Pasko, Sheila Hogue, along with a board of directors started Berks T1D. This is a group of Type 1 Diabetics that communicates within the Berks region. This has helped her and others in situations where people were unable to get certain type 1 medical supplies. Having a community to support each other helps with different difficulties that arise.
The prices of insulin effects a large amount of U.S. citizens. According to the Center for Disease and Contol Prevention, More than 29 million people have diabetes, of these about 3 million have Type 1 Diabetes. Type 1 Diabetics are fully reliant on insulin to survive.
Alexandra Bambrick a nursing student at The Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences and has been a Type 1 diabetic for three years. For the first two and a half years, she utilized an insulin pen, which is essentially an air-tight syringe that lasts about two weeks. The cost of a pen with her insurance already covering the majority is $21. `The needles for the pen is $10, and for the test strips used in that two week period $168, and the slow acting insulin pen utilized at night cost $25. In two weeks, a college student with an average insurance plan under their parents pays $224. In a year, with insurance coverage, Ms. Bambrick would pay $5376 in copays for the materials. This is not counting the cost of doctor appointments, and the meter that reads her blood sugar.
“One of the worries I have with all these expenses is what might happen after I turn 26 and I am off my parent’s health insurance,” Bambrick said.
For the past half a year, she has started using an Omni pod to take insulin. This technology is not more cost effective, but it does a better job of managing her sugar levels to avoid health issues in the future.
Wesner, who works with Albright College students, and has participated in webinars and discussions about how to regulate pharmaceutical companies who monopolize on life-saving medications, voiced her concern for college students.
“A college student with this has to deal with so much, from stress, sickness, and school work, to the financial burden it adds,” said Wesner.
Type 1 diabetes is a situation where the pancreas does not produce enough or does not produce any insulin. According to Dr. Hersperger a professor at Albright College who specializes in the immune system, Type 1 is caused by T cells that accidentally attack and destroy insulin. This is because they incidentally identify them as a virus. This makes Type 1 an autoimmune disease.
Type 2 is a situation where the insulin produced does not work appropriately. Essentially the insulin is placed in the bloodstream by the pancreas, but it does not function with the sugars and this results in high blood sugar. Type 2 is not initially dependent on insulin but can develop into being insulin dependent over time.
Insulin is a hormone which allows carbs to be converted into energy so the body can function properly. Without insulin to convert the sugars in the body, the person’s blood becomes syrup like due to the high concentration of sugar and causes multiple physical complications and even death.
Presently, the American Diabetes Association has a petition as well as other ways people can be informed and help stand up for affordable insulin. They clearly state their position on advocating for insulin to be at appropriate costs and to be managed responsibly. As Hersperger said, “If it is a preexisting drug with a set price, there is no reason for the price spike. While it is unethical, it is not illegal.” Knowing this, it is not illegal to raise prices on life-saving drugs, but showing the repercussions of the pharmaceutical company’s actions will hopefully have an effect on the people managing the price. Tell your story at https://makeinsulinaffordable.org/insulin-stories/.
Above image among other social media oriented pieces are free to utilize from https://makeinsulinaffordable.org/social/