Millions Ration Insulin as Prices Reach All Time High
On Halloween, we usually only warn children to be careful, but with current insulin prices forcing millions of Americans to ration this life saving medicine, keep an eye on your diabetic loved ones too.
A recent study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that a disheartening 1.3 million Americans with diabetes reported having to ration their insulin, likely due to inflated prices and lack of insurance coverage (Gaffney et al., ACP Journals, 2022). Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, distinguished Hunter College Professor and Harvard Medical School Lecturer, was one of the study's co-authors. She explains to CBS 6 News the dangers and health risks related to insulin "nonadherence".
If you have so-called Type 1, what we used to call juvenile diabetes, you can be dead in a matter of days if you stop your insulin. If you have the more common Type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, failure to take your insulin can still damage your health and even kill you, but not right away. Failure to take enough insulin can cause organ damage over a period of years that can shorten your life expectancy. -Dr. Steffie Woolhandler M.D. M.P.H., CBS 6 News
CBS 6 News also reported statistics found in the study.
Among Insulin Users:
- 11% of Medicare-age adults rationed
- 20% of younger adults (18-64) rationed
- 20% of middle-income earners rationed
- 15% of low-income people rationed
-Cory Smith, CBS 6 News
Middle-income earners had a tendency to ration more than low-income people because of differences in insurance plans, i.e. low-income individuals tend to have insurance policies like Medicaid that actually cover medical expenses such as insulin (Cory Smith, CBS 6 News). A doctor named Alexander Fleming invented insulin and donated all the research for only $1, setting it apart from other expensive patented medicines. So why is it so pricey? As Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer states,
The reason the cost is so high is the outrageously convoluted system, with the pharmaceutical companies and the distributors of these drugs who pay far more attention to their own profitability, than to helping people.
-Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, WAMC NPR
This graph by the CDC shows the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in U.S. counties over a span of 15 years. Fortunately for us, the Capital Region isn't looking too bad compared to some, but if overall trends continue, the number of Americans with diabetes will only continue to increase. This would lead to even more insulin rationing if prices don't decline. Fortunately, there have been some regulations put in place to try and mediate the situation, like the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden passed earlier this year. Another step in the right direction was the House approving the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which spread the $35 cap on insulin from exclusively seniors with Medicaid to all Americans with diabetes. Hopefully this is just the start of insulin relief, and we will see more helpful legislation passed in the near future.