Friday, March 25, 2016

The cost of living

There is a cost for everyone in order to survive and stay alive. Fortunately, most people just have to consider the cost of food, shelter, air and other basic necessities. I am not as fortunate. If you've been reading my blog, you are well aware I have this little chronic illness known as type 1 diabetes. In fact, on Tuesday, I will celebrate my 26th diaversary. Twenty-six years and I'm still alive and kicking, although I'm not always sure how I've made it so long because I had quite the rebellious streak in regards to proper management. In addition to all of the basic needs you all have, I need to purchase insulin to survive. Insulin is the equivalent of life support it. Without, I die. Then again, if I take too much or too little, I could also die so there is quite the fine line survival with this so-called life support. 

At the start of the year, I switched my insurance plans. Recently I went in to pick up my refill of insulin. And this is what the register displayed for two vials:


Go ahead and let expletives ramble in your head. As I attempted to not break down in tears in the pharmacy and continue with my other shopping, I called my mom. Mom and I bonded as I browsed the greeting cards finding a card for my niece's birthday. Mom went on a rant. I was ranting. I fought the tears thankfully. Mom remembered when insulin cost $11 a vial and was promised the price would never, ever rise. I fully admit, I'm not the best at math but clearly it was a lie back in the day and prices have obviously risen. 

It is interesting because the price of insulin has been a hot topic since the start of the year. To be honest, it is always a hot topic among people with diabetes but now others are taking notice and making waves. 

For example, on January 29, an article was published on Market Watch titled Eli Lilly's revenue boosted by jacking up cost of insulin for diabetics. Revenues for Humalog, their fast-acting insulin, increased by 20 percent. When the company had a call about earnings, they were asked about the pricing. John Lechleiter, chief executive officer, said "higher prices makes sense because it helps the company fund the research needed to find better treatment methods or a cure." 

Okay, that makes sense. Except I'm not hearing a thing anywhere about any research they are doing. I'm hearing lots about Tidepool and Nightscout and a researcher on the East Coast whose son has type 1 diabetes and is determined to develop an artificial pancreas before his son goes to college. But I'm not hearing a darn thing about what Eli Lilly is doing. Since I'm hearing nothing, I can't quite buy into Mr. Lechleiter's reasoning. 

Did you know the World Health Organization considers insulin an essential medicine? Obviously. It keeps me and millions of others alive so I think it is essential. But maybe I'm too biased. As an essential medicine, insulin should be "at a price the individual and community can afford." I'll be honest, I'd like insulin to be free but I'd use the money saved to go buy high-end shoes. But I would like insulin to be affordable so myself and other patients don't have to compromise our health. Some people restrict how much food they consume to restrict how much insulin they use so they don't have to spend so much money buying more insulin. By doing this, they are depriving themselves of valuable nutrients. And people skip checkups to save money because those cost money too. As someone with diabetes, I must have a general checkup, my diabetes checkups, my woman's checkup (diabetes can cause havoc there), my eye checkup (diabetes can cause blindness) and my dental checkup (again, diabetes causes problems). I don't get a choice unless I want to put myself at risk for complications. These are just a few of the aspects. 

Just over a month ago, Kasia Lipska, who is a doctor, wrote a powerful op-ed piece in the New York Times about why the insulin racket needs to be broken up. Why prices are getting out of control. Why people should have to make compromises to afford this versus that to stay alive. Dr. Lipska explains the issue of patents and manufacturing insulin and why no generic insulin exists in the marketplace. If I tried to summarize the article, I would not do it justice. Please take a few minutes to read the article here

How is it the diabetes world can be making such amazing strides (our technology is a million times more advanced than what it was when I was in high school not that long ago) yet we can't make insulin affordable for everyone who needs it? The diabetes community is finally finding its voice. Find #WereNotWaiting on social media to see how we are pushing and finally demanding better lives. 

But also, the insulin needs to be made affordable because with each price increase my hopes for a cure die a little. I know it does for other people with diabetes. It dies because we see the pharmaceutical companies looking at us like cash cows. I see a thought bubble above their heads stating "As long as they need insulin to live, they will pay what they have to, so no need for a cure. By the way, was the offer accepted on the private island I want?" I may be wrong in thinking this is how they see us but I don't believe I'm wrong to have developed this opinion because if they truly wanted to make life a little better for us as we battle and conquer a chronic disease, they'd make insulin affordable which would help eliminate the stress and fear of if we can afford our medical necessities to live another day. 

Thanks for reading this post. It is from my heart and is extremely important to me. For those not closely connected to diabetes, I hope it has opened your eyes to yet another aspect of life for people with diabetes. 

And here are some older pieces in the media about the cost of insulin: 
NPR: Why is insulin so expensive in the U.S.?
CBS News: How drug companies keep insulin prices high
Seattle Times: Patients shocked as insulin prices climb higher  

1 comment:

  1. I cannot imagine what that must of have been like when the total came up. There is no point in my life that it would not have taken my breath away. There would have been several times I just could not have afforded it.

    I referred your blog to the TUDiabetes blog page for the week of March 21, 2016.

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