Gail deVore: Too many American lives hinge on drug prices
By Gail deVore
The angry protests around the 2016 Mylan EpiPen scandal brought into sharp focus the perils for patients when the price of a life-saving drug spikes precipitously, with little or no forewarning, and no ready alternative.
As a Type 1 diabetic who has been dealing with escalating insulin prices my whole life, I was heartened to see the public outcry over our country’s anemic attitude toward setting affordable drug pricing policies. My concern now is that, without additional crises to capture the public’s attention, the issue will recede in significance. Rest assured, the realities for patients living under the price-spiral sword have not receded, our lives continue to be threatened daily.
Diabetics, like me, are required to inject daily doses of insulin to sustain our lives. Insulin is a simple hormone that now costs about $350 a bottle. When I was a newly diagnosed child in the 1970s, insulin cost $1.49 a bottle. The price rose slowly over the years: $20 in the ’90s, $75 in the 2000s. Suddenly, very recently, the price skyrocketed. Almost 50 percent of my cost of insulin has been incurred in the last four years. For some diabetics, the price is so high that they simply cannot afford to buy it. They die. If they choose to ration their insulin to make it last longer, they also will likely die — just more slowly.
In fact, prices have become so steep that within diabetic communities, we distribute extra insulin to those in need at no cost. I also know diabetics who get their insulin in Canada or other countries at incredible savings without a prescription. But these work-arounds cannot save every diabetic who cannot afford insulin. Any death from lack of insulin is unacceptable.