Health - US Insulin Crisis Kills Again
Campaigners say the death of a 21-year old man in the northern US state of Minnesota late last week is another casualty in the crisis over of skyrocketing insulin prices.
Family and friends say Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff was rationing his insulin; as a type-1 diabetic, he needed insulin to survive. But the price of insulin has tripled in that past 15 years with a sharp spike recently, and the young man like many others had been trying to stretch out his supply until his next payday.
"The cost of insulin is ridiculous. It is hard for me to even go in there and look at his casket. He is gone now. I can't say, 'hey let's go here'," said Jesimya's father David Radcliff to a local TV station covering the funeral. "I just think this country is backwards and I am a veteran. I have seen other countries and how they operate."
Three big pharmaceutical companies make insulin in the US. The price for one vial of Eli Lilly's Humalog surged from US$35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015. From 2013 to this year, Novo Nordisk's Novolog jumped from $289 to $540, and Sanofi's Lantus from $244 to $431, according to testimony before the US Finance Committee this year.
Back at the funeral in Minnesota: In attendance was Nicole Smith-Holt, an advocate for affordable insulin. Her 26-year old son Alec recently died under the same circumstances two years ago. And it's happening across the country: In March, 47-year old nurse Meghan Carter was found dead on her couch, her gauze and bandages within an arm's reach. But she was in between jobs and had $50 in her bank account, and her final insulin supply didn't last long enough.
"We lost another Type 1 diabetic due to insulin rationing. This is something you know we hoped would never happen again," said Smith-Holt. "My son and Jesy, they were murdered. They were killed by big Pharma. The cause of death should actually be on their death certificates, corporate greed," she added, "I want justice for all of their deaths."
Minnesota this year failed to pass emergency legislation to cap the price of insulin. Colorado did management to cap it at US$100 per vial. But that's an outlier in an increasingly bleak landscape. The US Congress is gridlocked.
Vermont US Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has had enough, he's leading a "caravan" of diabetics to Canada later this month to buy insulin that costs a tenth or less of the exact same drug costs in America.
"We can't wait for drug companies to lower prices," said Bernie. "Americans need relief now!
Bernie is including this in his broader healthcare reform proposals.
"Canada has a nationalized, single-payer system that allows them to negotiate much better prices with the drug companies," he said. "In our country it is a much different story."