• Some suggest soaring insulin costs leading to patient deaths

    By: Heather Hegedus

    Updated:

    Local doctors and patients will gather Saturday to protest the soaring costs of insulin.

    This Christmas will mark the first anniversary of Mindi Patterson's sister-in-law Meaghan Patterson Carter's death. Patterson says the type-1 diabetic lost her job and started rationing insulin, taking a lower dose than she needed to live. 

    A few days before Meaghan's death, she bought cheaper over-the-counter insulin to save money.

    "She was using insulin that hasn't really been prescribed for a long time. It's unpredictable, it's not as effective, and she'd never used it before," said Patterson. 

    Meaghan's body shut down and she was found dead in her apartment. 

    Patterson's son Martin, along with her other son and husband, have type-1 diabetes and worry about soaring insulin costs. 

    "A $300 price tag of a vial of insulin is outrageous when it only takes maybe $6 or $7 to produce," said Patterson. 

    Insulin rationing is only becoming more common, according to cardiologist Dr. Vikas Saini of the Lown Institute's Right Care Alliance, and he says the death toll is climbing as a result. 

    The common factor between many of the victims besides their diabetes diagnosis is they were all young. 

    "They were aging out of their parent's insurance. We've seen quotes of up to $1,200, $1,300, $1,500 a month," said Saini. "And that's one reason sometimes people have to figure out whether they're going to pay the rent or buy their insulin."

    Dr. Elizabeth Halperin of the Joslin Diabetes Center says she's had patients admit they're rationing, and she says death aside, there are other potential risks as well. 

    "Their eyesight, their heart, their kidneys and their ability to walk," said Halperin. 

    Boston 25 News reached out to two of the companies the Right Care Alliance is protesting Saturday.

    Both Eli Lilly and Sanofi gave us statements explaining they offer help to patients to price shop and look for programs to lower their out-of-pocket costs.

    Eli Lilly told us:

    “Demonstrations are an important way for people to have their voices heard. Lilly has introduced many new programs to reduce the cost of insulin at the pharmacy, and we encourage people paying higher prices to dial the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234, where they can talk to a live representative to ensure they are paying the lowest price possible for their Lilly insulin.”

    Sanofi told us:

    Every patient has unique circumstances. As part of our ongoing commitment to helping make our insulins more affordable and accessible, patients are encouraged to call a Sanofi support specialist at (855) 984-6302 to find the best resources and programs to help lower their out-of-pocket costs.

    Here are some of the programs that Sanofi offers:

    • 100% of commercially insured patients are eligible for co-pay assistance programs, regardless of income or insurance plan design, which limits out-of-pocket expenses for a majority of patients to $0 or $10.
    • 100% of uninsured patients are eligible for the Insulins Valyou Savings Program – regardless of income level – enabling them to buy one or multiple Sanofi insulin (Lantus, Toujeo, Admelog, and Apidra) for a fixed price of $99 per month, for up to ten boxes of pens and/or 10 mL vials. 
    • We also provide free medications to qualified low- and middle-income patients through the patient assistance component of the Sanofi Patient Connection program.

    The protestors will be rallying at Galaxy Park by Eli Lilly's office on Saturday. They're expecting as many as 100 people. 

    >> MORE: With rising prescription drug prices, where is the money going?

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