Hike in Insulin costs a matter of life or death for many diabetics

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The rising cost of insulin has become a life and death matter for so many across the country. That includes people in Alabama.

“I have people who have died because they have not taken their insulin because they didn't have money to buy their insulin,” says Dr. Fernando Ovalle, the interim chief for the division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at UAB.

He says others have switched to cheaper brands, decreased how much they take or even buy the drug from other patients, all because the price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years.

“A bottle, or a vial of insulin, which has about ten milliliters costs anywhere from three to five hundred dollars nowadays,” says Ovalle.

“Six, seven, eight, ten times the prices we used to pay fifteen years ago. and in the same time, inflation hasn’t been that bad.”

A bottle, Ovalle says, that will last many patients only a month, if that.

So why the increase?

“We don’t know for sure. Everyone blames each other. On one end, you have the manufacturers, the drug companies, which typically take a lot of the blame and they have a lot to be blamed for," says Ovalle. But he says there are about three or four middle men in between manufacturers and consumers are to blame too.

All this, in the US, but not other parts of the globe.

“At this point I think the government, Congress has to intervene and hold these people accountable and figure out a way to lower the prices. If they can afford to sell these drugs at a tenth of the cost in other parts of the world, why not here?” Ovalle says. “And I know Congress is paying attention, they’re just not doing this fast enough.”

Ovalle says he is glad organizations like the American Diabetes Association and others across the globe are addressing the issue. He also says patients have been organizing protests and suing drug companies.

Still, he feels it will take Congress to act before the situation really changes.

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