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Type 1 Diabetes patients struggle with rising Insulin costs

SEATTLE – Over the years, Nurse Practitioner Karen Aitken says she’s seen the price of the life-saving drug Insulin go up.

“It was about $25 and now it’s about $250-350 per vial,” said Aitken.

Type 1 patients like Karen were either born with it or developed the auto-immune disease later in life.  She says her body doesn’t produce insulin at all.

“Basically, insulin is required for survival so life expectancy with no insulin for a person with type one diabetes is four or five days,” said Aitken.

About a year ago, Karen began her own business helping type one patients and their families navigate the disease.  Some of them heading out of the country to get insulin where it’s ten times cheaper.

“It’s a very widespread practice for people to take less insulin than they need because it’s costly and they may be running out and they’re not getting enough to control their blood sugar,” said Karen.

A new study by non-profit Health Care Cost Institute says between 2012 and 2016 costs have doubled from $7.80 per day to $15 per day for the average diabetic.

We first met Jennifer Benton and her then 20-month old daughter Kalia who has type one diabetes back in 2017.

“I cry every day still,” said mother Jennifer Benton in July 2017.

Wednesday, Benton tells Q13 News Seattle Children’s Hospital helps with their insulin costs.

“They’re able to get their insulin…it’s called the uncompensated care program so they can get their insulin through that, but nothing exists for the type one diabetes adult population,” said Aitken.

Karen says there are some discounts and programs available for adults in need.

The American Diabetes Association provided Q13 News with this list:

For Karen, it’s all about budgeting for him.

“My first trip to the pharmacy at the beginning of the new year is always about $1,500 from my three-month supply of insulin,” said Aitken.  “We hit our out of pocket max at $7,000.”

For Karen, watching insulin costs rise only adds insult to injury.

“Managing type one diabetes is already extremely time intensive, you’re making decisions about your health 25-30 times a day. Dosing, counting what you’re eating, it’s very, very complex.  It takes an extraordinary amount of emotional and physical energy. And to have this added on I think to a lot of people it just feels like unfair,” said Aitken.

That’s why Karen says she’s willing to speak up about the rising costs.  The American Diabetes Association released an awareness video as part of its Make Insulin Affordable Campaign.  The non-profit took its concerns to the US Capitol in May advocating for lawmakers to intervene and explain why costs have risen so dramatically.

In the meantime, Karen wants patients to ask for help.

“I think it’s really important for people to not give up and to not ration and to really connect and find help which is out there,” said Aitken.

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