About a hundred years ago, there was not a drug to treat diabetes. Manufactured insulin didn't exist. It wasn’t until 1921 that researchers created it in the lab and saved millions of lives.
Today, almost seven and a half million Americans need to take a prescription dose of insulin, but for many of them, the financial cost is going up.
It was insulin that saved 8-year-old Addyson Greene’s life. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at an annual exam with her pediatrician.
“It all changed in one sentence. This was our new life,” Addyson’s mother Kirsten said.
Now, Addyson must monitor her glucose levels and needs at least four shots of insulin a day. The family's insurance plan makes an insulin pump and high tech monitoring device too expensive. The insulin prescriptions alone are already $140 every month. That's after meeting the deductible.
“And that's a cheap price from other people that I’ve heard,” Kirsten said.
For those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, going without insulin is not an option.
As a pharmacist at Wake Forest Baptist Health's Diabetes and Endocrinology Center, Julienne Kirk knows the power of insulin.
“A patient with type 1 diabetes no longer makes insulin and has to have insulin or they will die because their body will waste away,” Kirk said.
Research shows the cost of that prescription is going up.
The Health Care Cost Institute looked at insurance claims and found the cost of insulin for people with type 1 diabetes nearly doubled in just four years from 2012 to 2016. On average every year, the cost went from $2,864 to $5,705. Walmart sells one type of insulin at a low cost but doctors say be careful. You don't need a prescription to buy it and this specific type of insulin is not a "one size fits all."
Congress held hearings with representatives from insurance companies and the pharmaceutical manufacturers of insulin in April to ask why the price had increased. The insurance companies blamed the pharmaceutical companies and vice versa. What no one can deny is that the price had gone up.
This leads to story after story of patients rationing their life-saving medication, which Kirk says is dangerous.
“Especially when we have kids who live with it for a lifetime. It’s critical that they have their insulin and they don't skip doses and they have access to the medicine that they need,” Kirk said.
“A long time ago, it was a mysterious disease they didn't know how to get insulin so if you got it, you had no chance of living. You would die. So I'm very thankful that people made insulin,” Addyson said.
Gratitude from a little girl with a life-threatening disease.
JDRF is working on the issues surrounding the rising cost of insulin. You can find information at jdrf.org.