Maybe you know someone who is a diabetic. Probably, you haven’t seen their illness affect them too much, because they are able to control it with widely-available, affordable medications and lifestyle changes. About a year ago a new friend entered my social sphere who is funny, kind, smart, compassionate and immensely loving. Turns out he is also a Type I diabetic.
I thought of him often as the pharmaceutical companies duked it out over the past year or so with price gouging, watching as insulin rates skyrocketed across my country, entirely unnecessarily.
The drugs weren’t new or different. They weren’t some special exclusive formulation. Insulin is insulin is insulin. It helps in regulating your blood sugar. You can die without it. Usually, your body makes enough of it. When it doesn’t, due to a mistaken immune response, you have to supplement what your body makes. That’s the basics of Type I diabetes.
Yet even though the drugs aren’t new, the formulation isn’t new, and the population of Type I diabetics, as well as insulin-dependent Type II diabetics, hasn’t changed dramatically over the past year and a half, the costs of insulin have blown up in America.
There are a lot of reasons for this and this article outlines them well if you want to check it out, but in the end it really comes down to greed and monopoly. These companies are manufacturing something that over a million American adults and children require to survive, and since they can’t live without it, they jacked the prices up radically. How radically? From $100-200 per month to $600-900 per month. This has led to many diabetics rationing their insulin, which is extremely dangerous. You can read all about diabetic ketoacidosis here. Basically, you die. Period. End of story. We don’t know how many people have died from insulin rationing in America, but we know it’s happening more and more frequently. One in four Americans who are insulin-dependent are now reportedly rationing.
Seeing it in person is scary too. Watching a once-vibrant, joking, teasing, silly, fun-loving friend turn into an exhausted mess, a fraction of the person they were, who can barely keep working or living, is horrifying. Seeing their body screaming for this chemical that is absolutely essential to functioning properly, is heartbreaking. My friend nearly lost first his job and then his life, repeatedly. Excuse me, but this is the twenty-first century, correct?
Fortunately, we live in Colorado. On May 22, our Governor signed into law a piece of legislation designed to undermine the price gouging and take the pressure off of patients. Our new law governing the price of insulin states that a price cap of $100 for a month’s supply of insulin is now in effect. No matter how much the drugs cost, no matter how much insulin each patient needs, they will not be charged more than $100 per month. Insurance companies will have to absorb the costs.
“My pancreas and beta cells are throwing a party if anyone wants it.” This was my friend’s Facebook post the day that the legislation’s passing was announced. He’d confided in me that he recently spent the remainder of his life savings on insulin because of the gouging. Now, for him, and the rest of Colorado’s near half-million diabetics, that burden will be easier to bear. It’s my sincerest hope that other states begin to follow suit in protecting their citizens from the greed of despoiled, monopolizing pharmaceutical companies. We work hard. We play hard. We deserve the highest quality of life possible. Everyone does.