Americans are dying because they can’t afford insulin

The cost of insulin in the U.S. is on the rise, and not all Americans can afford it—a problem one mother blames for her son’s death from diabetic ketosis—NPR reported this week.

Nicole Smith-Holt, of Richfield, Minnesota, lost her son Alec to ketosis because she said he couldn’t afford the insulin he needed to treat his diabetes. He died alone in his apartment, three days before payday. Smith-Holt said he was likely rationing his insulin so it would last until his next check, but when he was found, his insulin pen was empty.

According to NPR, the average list price for a single vial of insulin is $250, without insurance. Most patients use two to four vials a month, but with a $450-a-month premium and $7,600 deductible, Alec’s insurance plan wasn’t going to cover much. He opted to go uninsured, knowing he’d have to pay $1,300 out of pocket every month just to stay alive.

Before scientists at the University of Toronto found a way to extract and purify insulin, type 1 diabetes was a death sentence, NPR reported. The patent for the discovery was sold to the university for a symbolic $1, so everyone who needed insulin could get it.

“My story is not so different from what I hear from other families,” Smith-Holt said. “Young adults are dropping out of college. They’re getting married just to have insurance, or not getting married to the love of their lives because they’ll lose their state-funded insurance.”

Read NPR’s full report at the link below.