Local diabetics seek cure for rising cost of insulin

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Local health experts say the rising cost of insulin is a major issue impacting one in every five people in eastern North Carolina.

In just the past 5 years, it’s more than doubled. The sticker price of a vial of one form called Humalog was $21 in 1996 and is now $255.

Insulin is not optional for diabetics. It’s a life-saving drug they have to take every day or risk severe complications. Yet because of the soaring costs, some are now treating it like it is optional.

Local experts say people under certain insurance plans which are common in this area are getting hit the hardest. One option to make up for some of the costs is putting patients on older forms of insulin, which also means reverting to older, less effective treatment methods.

Natasha Collins is one of many parents concerned about the rising costs of treating her son’s diabetes.

“It really takes a toll on the finances because you know your unexpected expenses may come up and you have to make a choice… I need to get this medicine but I have to take care of this so I really wish they would take into consideration that those things happen,” Collins said.

ECU Family Physician Dr. Thomas Ellis says some of his patients are risking their lives to accommodate the price increases.

“You don’t find out about this until the patient comes back to you and all of a sudden their hemoglobin A1C, their control is bad… What happened? ‘Well I stopped taking my insulin. I cut back on my insulin. I’m trying to do this with my diet now because I can’t afford the insulin,'” Dr. Ellis said.

After requests from the American Diabetes Association, a small group of congressmen including Senator Bernie Sanders has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the rising costs and possible price collusion, a claim which insulin makers reject.

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