American diabetes patients die, can’t pay medicine

This 16 July 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Another Person Has Died From Rationing Insulin

Twenty-one-year-old Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff might still be alive if he could have afforded his insulin. KARE 11 reported on Sunday that the Minnesota man had been rationing the insulin he needed to treat his diabetes.

“The cost of insulin is ridiculous,” Jesmiya’s father, David Radcliff, told the news station. “It is hard for me to even go in there and look at his casket. He is gone now.”

Radcliff added, “I just think this country is backwards and I am a veteran. I have seen other countries and how they operate.”

Scherer-Radcliff’s death is not an isolated event. Annual insulin costs doubled between 2012 and 2016, a fact with a death toll attached to it. There’s no single force propelling insulin prices to newly dangerous heights, but the problem is exacerbated by the flaws of America’s heavily-privatized health care system.

A lengthy piece in the Washington Post magazine suggested that pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) like CVS Health share the blame. The pharmaceutical companies have raised prices in near lockstep. PBMs, as STAT explained in 2018, work with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices on behalf of insurance companies, but those discounts can end up increasing out-of-pocket costs.

“Every time a PBM extracts a deeper discount, an insulin manufacturer has the incentive to take a price increase to quote ‘make themselves whole’”, health economist Rena Conti told the Post.

As insulin prices rise, patients go without. One study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cited by the Guardian, found that around one in four patients with diabetes say they ration the medicine due to cost, but pharmaceutical companies show little interest in slashing prices back down to humane levels.

Meanwhile, rationing can have dangerous consequences for patients who depend on insulin to survive. CNN reported in January that a teenager with diabetes had reduced his insulin intake by a third to try to save his underemployed parents hundreds of dollars every month. His parents only discovered the deception when a doctor informed them that the boy’s blood sugar was dangerously high.

Others aren’t so fortunate. As I previously wrote for Intelligencer, Shane Boyle died in 2017 after he began rationing his insulin in order to cover the costs of his mother’s hospice care.

Scherer-Radcliff’s funeral was attended by Nicole Smith-Holt. According to the Post, her son, Alec, died of ketoacidosis less than a month after he aged out of his parents’ insurance plan. “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 told KARE 11. “I want justice for all of their deaths.” In the same interview, Smith-Holt noted that Minnesota legislators had just failed to pass insulin legislation named for her son. Had the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act become law, patients could, according to a description in the MinnPost, fill insulin prescriptions regardless of their ability to pay.

Read more here.

DIABETES PATIENTS DYING DUE TO DRUG COSTS Nearly 18% of working-age adults with diabetes are rationing their own medication — taking smaller dosages, or delaying or skipping the treatments altogether. Last month, 21-year-old Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff from Minnesota died. His family said it was because he had skipped insulin doses he couldn’t afford. [HuffPost]

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