Gail deVore: Too many American lives hinge on drug prices

healthcareThe angry protests around the 2016 Mylan EpiPen scandal brought into sharp focus the perils for patients when the price of a life-saving drug spikes precipitously, with little or no forewarning, and no ready alternative.

As a Type 1 diabetic who has been dealing with escalating insulin prices my whole life, I was heartened to see the public outcry over our country’s anemic attitude toward setting affordable drug pricing policies. My concern now is that, without additional crises to capture the public’s attention, the issue will recede in significance. Rest assured, the realities for patients living under the price-spiral sword have not receded, our lives continue to be threatened daily.

Diabetics, like me, are required to inject daily doses of insulin to sustain our lives. Insulin is a simple hormone that now costs about $350 a bottle. When I was a newly diagnosed child in the 70s, insulin cost $1.49 a bottle. The price rose slowly over the years: $20 in the 90s, $75 in the 2000s. Suddenly, very recently, the price skyrocketed. Almost 50 percent of my cost of insulin has been incurred in the last four years. For some diabetics, the price is so high that they simply cannot afford to buy it. They die. If they choose to ration their insulin to make it last longer, they also will likely die—just more slowly.

In fact, prices have become so steep that within diabetic communities, we distribute extra insulin to those in need at no cost. I also know diabetics who get their insulin in Canada or other countries at incredible savings without a prescription. But these work-arounds cannot save every diabetic who cannot afford insulin. Any death from lack of insulin is unacceptable.

It simply isn’t right that in the United States—a country that is supposed to be setting the standards for advanced medical care—patients have to split pills, cross borders or crowdsource vital medication. In no country should a life-saving and life-sustaining medication cost more than your mortgage.

I have been fortunate to always have insurance so I can afford my insulin and other medical necessities, however even having insurance doesn’t make it affordable for everyone. High deductible plans force many of us to still pay a lot for our drugs.

This situation is not limited to diabetics. It might be your neighbor who has cancer, or your grandparent with heart disease, or your child’s classmate with asthma. It might be you. Seventy percent of all Americans take prescription drugs for a chronic condition, according to the Mayo Clinic, and more than half take two. One-fifth of Americans take five prescription drugs. It’s highly likely far more Americans would be among that group if they could afford it.

We all have skin in this game.

According to a recent survey by the West Health Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago, 75 percent of Americans consider the prices of prescription drugs to be unreasonable, and despite promises from the president and members of Congress to rein in prices, very few approve of either’s handling of the issue.

This isn’t surprising given the survey found no public policy issue is more important to Americans than the high cost of healthcare and the rising price of prescription drugs—more so than jobs and the economy, immigration, national security and the environment.

We also know that only large-scale policy changes—not informal networks and trips to Canada—can fix this. Fully 88 percent of Americans say medication costs should be a priority for congressional candidates this year. And eight in 10 support proposals to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers and allow generics to compete with brand-name medications.

Imagine the impact if we all spoke up about it—and not just when a particularly egregious story like the EpiPen debacle captures the public’s attention.

I encourage all Americans to reach out to their representatives, and candidates running for office, and tell them to make this issue a priority. Our lives are in the balance and it is time to take action.

Gail deVore has had Type 1 Diabetes for over 46 years, diagnosed as a young child. She lives a full life in Denver, Colorado with her husband and their family. 

Books from AFP

2018-19 UVA Basketball Preview: Just $1.99 on Amazon!

UVA Basketball finished the 2017-18 season ranked at the top of the national polls. Augusta Free Press editor Chris Graham offers his insight and analysis on the 2018-19 'Hoos, breaking down the roster, the legacy of coach Tony Bennett, and how the loss to UMBC could fuel a run through March Madness next spring.

The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever: Just $3.49 on Amazon!

Chris Graham offers a glimpse behind the curtain of the pro wrestling business in his new book, The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, the inside story of the 2011 Night of Legends, a live pay-per-view event featuring stars including WWE Hall of Famers Kevin Nash, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and The Rock 'n Roll Express that was met with almost universally negative reviews.

Mad About U: History of University Hall available on Amazon for just $5.99!

Mad About U: Four Decades of at University Hall is a comprehensive book covering the players, coaches and memories of University Hall at the University of Virginia. Join us as we look back at the memories from more than 40 years in U Hall.

News From Around the Web

Shop Google