Thursday, 18 April 2019

Op-Ed: Greed is the culprit of diabetic’s deaths –

Imagine it’s the last few days of 6th grade. You’re 11 years old and you were promised to make sundaes in class tomorrow! Though you haven’t felt well in a while, (doctor says you’re not sick, so it must be in your head), you’re excited since you’ve never had a sundae.

Your mother, a school nurse, has a hunch that leads to another doctor visit elsewhere. The results are in and she’s sobbing—knowing—and nearly yells, “do you realize how much it will cost?!”

In fact, you don’t. 

They try to explain the situation the best they could to a middle-schooler: “No, you can’t have that sundae. You’re going to the emergency room.” Now you’re crying, too. 

It’s the last day of 6th grade and you insert a long needle into your stomach by yourself for the first time. You didn’t ask for this. Nobody visits you in the hospital for days. They are, after all, enjoying “Field Day,” the most anticipated public school experience, while you learn about how your pancreas is near useless.

You would have died had you been a diabetic in your grandfather’s era. They tell you infants have diabetes too. 

“It’s easier to live as a diabetic now,” the educator smiles.

Many middle-class diabetics survive well past a decade later after the diagnosis. I know because I am one, but my story isn’t one that’s rare. One in 10 people that you know share the disease with me. 

Is it easier to live as a diabetic now?

A year ago, the president accused pharmaceuticals of “getting away with murder” after decades of the industry continually increasing drug prices. He promised a combative plan and diabetics rejoiced. 

“I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities,” Trump said in his 2018 Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs Prices. “[Prices] will come down.”

Congress signed into law earlier this year ending a method that prevents pharmacists from discussing lower-cost drug alternatives with consumers. It wasn’t impactful enough.

Two months ago, a group of parents brought the ashes of their dead diabetic children to Sanofi, the fifth-largest biopharmaceutical company, to protest the cost. Several drug makers faced class-action lawsuits after their price hikes killed diabetics.

Earlier this week, the president tweeted that drug prices declined for the first time in nearly 50 years due to his administration’s efforts. Diabetics, still mourning, were puzzled.

“During the first 19 months of my Administration, Americans saved $26 Billion on prescription drugs,” his tweet read. “Our policies to get cheaper generic drugs to market are working!”

The Associated Press’ analysis of brand-name drugs found 96 price increases for every price cut in the first seven months of last year. During that time, drug makers hiked prices on 1,800 medicines by 9.1 percent. Following that, several continued to increase prices. Price hiking is not unusual.

The average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and as recent as 2017, Drugmakers Eli Lilly (LLY) and Novo Nordisk increased insulin prices by almost 8 percent each.

Europe has price controls and manages to still encourage drug companies to innovate. Meanwhile, American diabetics ration or go without insulin because greed perseveres. 

Originally, those that discovered insulin sold the patent for $3 in hopes of helping others. It is a disgrace that diabetics today must pay a thousand a month or more with the help of insurance to live. Those without decent insurance struggle or face devastating blows to their health, like seizures, comas, loss of eyesight or feeling in parts of their body.

In the late seventies, the price of insulin began rose once synthetic insulin was created and an affordable price has yet to come out of the billion-dollar industry since then. Today, there are ways to use coupons and there’s communal monetary support, though diabetics should not have to rely on desperate tactics to survive.

Last Wednesday, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill) introduced the Insulin Access For All Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Through the bill, insulin would be covered by Medicare and Medicaid in full, eliminating costly monthly pharmacy expenses. However, the bill does not apply to those without health insurance or those with private health insurance plans, though it is the step in the right direction.

I would have died had someone not been there with me at the time of my own diabetic seizure. Those that are alone and without a way to afford insulin have a high risk of dying. I think of this the closer I get to aging out of my parents insurance in a few years, left with few choices to afford insulin.

If I continue to be single for a few years and don’t get decent insurance (both aren’t looking good so far), I will have to continue burdening my parents, take out a loan or get multiple jobs as so many have to. I will not have kids because of the 50 percent chance they too will suffer from a genetic inconvenience and chance a life-long financial burden. 

Diabetes affects my choices and I every day, but I’ll take needles over not being able to afford the medicine I need to live. 


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