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More than a million Americans ration insulin due to the high cost of the drug

Insulin rights activists and those who live with diabetes are calling for meaningful action to address the high costs of insulin in the United States as a new study shows the widespread habit of rationing the life-saving medicine.

A study published on 18 October in the Annals of Internal Medicine by researchers at Harvard Medical School, the City University of New York’s Hunter College and Public Citizen, found that 1.3 million Americans rationed insulin due to the high costs of insulin in 2021. The staggering number represents an estimated 16.5% of the US population with diabetes.

The study found insulin rationing was most commonly reported by those without health insurance coverage and individuals under the age of 65 not eligible for Medicare. Black insulin users were more likely to report rationing insulin, at 23.2%.

The impact of the practice can be terrible.

Janelle Lutgen of Dubuque county, Iowa, lost her 32-year-old son Jesse, a type 1 diabetic, after he started rationing his insulin because he lost his job and with it his health insurance and died in early 2018 from diabetic ketoacidosis.

Without health insurance, Lutgen said over-the-counter insulin costs more than $1,000 (£865) a month, and that her son couldn’t afford the high cost of healthcare coverage in the marketplace without a job and wasn’t eligible for Medicaid coverage because his income from when he was working was too high.

“It would probably be impossible to really know exactly all the harm that’s been done with high insulin prices,” said Lutgen, who explained that individuals who ration insulin because of the cost, if they do survive, can still experience other health impacts such as neuropathy, or losing toes or feet. “It seems like we can’t get it through legislators’ heads that we have to make sure everyone who needs insulin can get it, not just people who have insurance or people on Medicare – everybody. The only way to do that is to go to the root of the problem, big pharma.”

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Source: The Guardian, 1 November 2022


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