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Insulin Becoming Too Expensive for Many Patients to Afford

Insulin Becoming Too Expensive for Many Patients to Afford

A life-saving drug is becoming so expensive it is forcing those who need it to make choices they shouldn’t have to make.

Millions of people across the country have diabetes and it is putting a huge dent in their pockets. Since 2002, the cost of insulin – the drug they need to survive – has tripled.

“Insulin is now one of the most expensive drugs,” said Dr. Laura Carravallah, with Hurley Medical Center.

Carravallah said patients are feeling pain in their pocketbooks because of the skyrocketing cost of insulin.

The American Medical Association said the price tripled between 2002 and 2013, and it continues to rise.

For some, like 22-year-old Hattie Saltzman, insulin is something she can’t afford even though her life depends on it.

“It’s not something I can choose whether or not to use. I have to use it. It is imperative to my life. If I don’t have it I die. I don’t think I should have to spend $500 a month to live,” Saltzman said.

She started using some of her father’s insulin with his blessings.

Her doctor also gave her several samples to ease the strain.

But she ended up having to stretch out what she had at the expense of her health.

“I was skipping doses, just enough that I knew I would be alive. But I wouldn’t be living the best life I could be. I had been rationing insulin so heavily that it actually expired in my pump,” Saltzman said.

She became extremely sick and had to go to the emergency room. Her recovery is a happy turn of events, but there are others with similar stories of despair.

Carravallah said insulin prices are going up because of supply and demand.

“Unfortunately, I think what we’re dealing with here is its market. And the problem is that everyone needs these meds and often times there is not competition. So even though we talk about capitalism and using a market to try to control things, in this case it doesn’t work very well,” Carravallah said.

She said Flint is an area where she sees things like this quite often. She said it’s some of the lowest income, but some of the highest drug prices.

“It’s not because somebody’s a bad guy, it’s because pharmacies up in kind of the center of the city and up in the north side, they tend to be smaller and there’s not as much money for a big box pharmacy. It’s not surprising they don’t have the buying power and the price goes up,” Carravallah said.

After seeing many of her patients struggle, she like many others are waiting for a change.


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