On World Diabetes Day, advocates push lawmakers to help lower cost of meds

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Lawmakers, and people affected by diabetes, are using the occasion of World Diabetes Day to call for changes to the cost of the medicine used to fight the illness.

"If I don't take insulin, I will die, literally," says Alexis Newman, who has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 18 months old.

That's a big reason why the now-36-year-old is an advocate for a bill in Congress that would help with the cost of insulin.

"My plan is to be involved in this, and really see his bill come to light," she said.

Beth Kagan and her husband have been living with diabetes for the last few years. She says in that time she's seen the cost of their insulin continually rise.

"Our yearly cost for drugs, and the insurance that we have to have, is $21,322," she said.

Kagan says they've resorted to extreme measures to get the life-saving medicine.

"For us, we can go down to Mexico and save thousands and thousands of dollars," she said.

Patrick Keenan with the Pennsylvania Health Access Network says insulin therapy has been around since the 1920s, but over time, companies have boosted the price.

"Over the most recent decade, the most popular types of insulin have tripled in cost, increasing the price by as much as 800%, which is hard for many diabetics to maintain," Keenan said.

"As a result of this, one in four people with diabetes are forced to ration insulin, sometimes fatally, because they are being priced gouged by these corporations."

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild says the bill changes Medicare negotiations for the better, helps keep money in consumers pockets, and keeps a handle on what drug companies can charge the government.

"The price just keeps going up, and we've got to get a handle on that," Wild said.

She says the bill would also allow them to invest money from lowered drug prices into research for new breakthrough treatments, and cures.

"It creates a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit prescription drug cost for Medicare beneficiaries," she said.

Wild says the bill can go a long way in helping the 25% of diabetics who have to ration their medicine.