The American Insulin Crises

1.25 million Americans have Type-1 Diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association. This means that 1.25 million Americans are reliant on daily injections of insulin because their body cannot properly transform glucose sugar into energy. While severely inconvenient, Type-1 diabetes is manageable with these daily shot of insulin. However, what happens when one takes away access to insulin? The original creators of insulin, Frederick Banting, Charles Best and J.J.R. Macleod, sold their discovery for only $1 so it would be affordable and easily accessible to all suffering from this disease. Currently, the average price for a single vial of insulin without insurance is $250. The average patient uses two to four vials of insulin per month meaning they are expected to spend $1,300 per month on these vials.

The price of insulin has more than doubled since 2012 due to both the primary manufacturer of insulin within the United States Eli Lily and Co. and third party pharmaceutical companies, namely CVS Health, increasing prices. These price increases, along with lack of accessibility to affordable healthcare, has created an impending insulin crises where, according to a study by UpWell Health,  45% of Americans with diabetes sometimes forgo care due to cost. This means 45% of Americans with diabetes are putting their lives in jeopardy due to the unreasonably high price of insulin. When one does not receive the proper amount of insulin ther body goes through Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This means one’s blood sugar gets so high that their blood becomes highly acidic, their cells dehydrate, and their body stops functioning in as short a time as 24 hours.

This has tragically been the case for those who cannot afford the increased price of insulin. Several reported incidents of DKA have made headlines due to the unfortunate nature of their deaths. Before his death in 2017, Shane Patrick Boyle of Mena, Arkansas resorted to rationing his doses and creating a GoFundMe page in a desperate attempt to afford his monthly supply of insulin. Another heavily publicized case is Nicole Smith Holt advocating for the regulation of the prices of insulin due to the death of her 27-year old son Alec after he aged out of coverage by his insurance.

Despite having insurance, many are still struggling to afford the expensive co-pays associated with diabetes. 22-year old college student Hattie Saltzman described to a Kansas City News Outlet how she would “skip doses, just enough to where I could still live” due to her strenuous $600 per month copay. These are not just names. These are students, family members, coworkers and everyday people who have been put in the position where they cannot afford the medicine that is crucial for them to live.

Republican and Democrat senators alike have called for federal probes into making the pricing of insulin more transparent. On the state level Minnesota’s Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit this month against three major pahramseucticla companies: Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Until regulations are implemented and anticompetitive business practices are halted Americans with Diabetes will continue to suffer.