Diabetics rationing insulin amid high costs: Study

Health

(NewsNation) — A new study has found that over a million diabetics have made the dangerous decision to ration insulin in an effort to save money during an era of record inflation.

New research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine shows that over the last year, 1.3 million diabetic Americans have rationed their insulin either by skipping doses, taking less or delaying buying it.

The new numbers revealed that around three out of 10 uninsured and two out of 10 insured Americans had to ration their insulin in the past year.

Duke University School of Medicine endocrinologist and assistant professor Dr. Afreen Shariff said she wasn’t surprised to see these numbers.

“It’s a sad reality and a reflection of our current economy and the result of our health care policies,” Shariff said.

Shariff explained that life in general in the post-COVID-19 era has become more expensive, and job instability has played a huge role in it. Since many people lost their jobs during the pandemic, they also lost their insurance. Due to this situation, Shariff explained, they are starting to see more Americans having to make difficult choices between paying for essentials such as rent, food and medications including insulin.

“And to add to this, the cost of insulin has irresponsibly been increased over the last 15 years by about 350%. And that is surprising. So, it’s about time that policies change, especially for the nearly 38 million diabetes patients here in America. So these numbers are not surprising. They’re not astonishing,” Shariff said.

Shariff also said that it is not safe to ration insulin, especially for patients who are insulin-dependent.

“With Type 1 diabetes, their life depends on the availability of insulin. And if they don’t have insulin, for a day or a few hours, they can end up in a hospital. And that is why rationing a life-sustaining medication like insulin, and capping the cost, is essential for our health care system,” she said.

Insulin was discovered in 1921 — Shariff mentioned that they had just celebrated it being around for a century. She even explained that when the two Canadian scientists discovered it, they sold the patent for the drug for only $1, famously saying that “insulin doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the world.”

“And here we are 100 years later, still discussing the cost, and the rising cost, of insulin, and why Americans are having to pay so much more for life-sustaining medication,” Shariff said.

She said that a drop in the cost of insulin is needed and has been long overdue.

“Patients need insulin now,” Sheriff said. “And there are few ways in which patients can access low-cost insulin. One of the ways is patient assistance programs that patients can discuss with their prescribing doctors. They can also look into using savings cards, which are typically available to insulin manufacturing companies. And they can go to the website and look for savings and discount cards and also discuss with the pharmacist how to access this information.”

Shariff explained that while there are options available for people to access lower-cost insulin, it is not a sustainable fix.

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