Insulin prices are skyrocketing, affecting families in SWFL

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Experts warn that insulin can be abused by people with diabetes ISTOCKPHOTO

The cost of a life-saving medication is skyrocketing, affecting hundreds of families in Southwest Florida.

“It becomes a real scary thing,” said Pamela Rivera. Rivera is a single parent caring for her 11-year-old daughter, Sabine, who has type 1 diabetes. “We know what the cost of diabetes, not only emotionally, but the financial cost is unbelievable.”

“I had a lot of friends who, when they first found out, had no idea what it was,” Sabine said.

Type 1 diabetes is a condition where the pancreas does not produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

Without that insulin, people diagnosed with the disease would die.

“We know a lot of people who don’t have insurance. They cut corners. They don’t do what they’re supposed to do, because they don’t have the means,” River said.

A month’s supply of an insulin pen costs more than $600. The test strips alone cost more than $300 a month.

That’s because the cost of that life-saving insulin dramatically increased in the last few years.

CBS News found that prices more than tripled from 2002-2013.

One drug increased almost eight percent in 2017 alone.

Another kind of insulin rose from $300 for a three-month supply last year, to more than $900 this year.

“It’s horrible. It’s horrible,” said Tami.

It’s one reason Tami Balabage founded Help a Diabetic Child Foundation, a non-profit based in Southwest Florida that primarily serves Lee and Collier counties.

“We buy diabetes supplies and insulin for children and young adults whose families are struggling financially and cannot afford to get these supplies,” Tami said.

She was inspired to help out after her son was diagnosed.

“When I stop and think about it, I get very angry,” Tami said.

But insulin manufacturers say it’s not their fault.

For example, in a letter to the US House of Representatives in 2017, the Endocrine Society argues:

“Health plans should remove insulin from co-pays in high-deductible plans, Congress should consider policies that would reduce patient cost-sharing, and patient assistance programs for insulin should be less restrictive and more accessible.”

But for Rivera and other families those solutions can’t come soon enough.

“We ended up moving back in with my mom. It’s tight quarters, but it is what it is. We make the best of it. We do what we have to do,” she said.”

It’s a major adjustment to keep her daughter, who is managing the disease, alive.

” I didn’t understand that that would be something I would live with forever until there’s a cure,” Sabine said.

A cure that could save a lot of money, and more importantly, a lot of lives.

To Help a Diabetic Child Foundation has helped 400 families in Southwest Florida.

To read more about the foundation’s work, you can visit their website. 

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