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Insulin costs back in spotlight after man dies switching to cheaper drug

Posted at 5:11 PM, Aug 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 20:04:27-04

KILLEEN, TX — Crippling insulin costs are back in the spotlight after a Virginia man lost his life after switching to a cheaper form of the drug.

Josh Wilkerson, 27, switched to a cheaper over-the-counter insulin after he experienced a gap in health insurance, something available in some parts of the country.

“Diabetes is a 24/7 job,” said Janice Wall, a type one diabetic. "It's more than heartbreaking, and I've heard so many stories like that."

When the story first broke, many turned to social media asking how this could happen. Some were surprised to learn that there were different types of insulin.

Janice Wall knows the challenges of living with type one diabetes. "I always have cheese and crackers," said Janice. "There really is no breaks."

Living with the condition requires careful attention...and a price tag.

According to Wall, insulin is a very expensive thing to care for, and it crosses no borders. Everybody can get it. "Insulin is not affordable," said Wall.

The hormone is a critical means of managing diabetes for many patients. She uses a pump that links to an app to help her keep tabs on her sugar.

She says she is very lucky that her insurance pays for it, since there are people whose insurance don’t pay for it and don’t pay for a lot of their diabetic supplies.

An advocate for insulin affordability, wall says she’s heard far too many stories of people forced to make dangerous choices.

One of these stories Wall heard was about someone's son going away to college. The parents gave him a credit card to pick up his insulin. When he saw how much it was, he thought, they can't afford this. So their son rationed his medication, and he became seriously ill.

Dosages are important. But not all insulin works the same.

Dr. Chau Nguyen from Advent Health in Killeen said there are two types of insulin. One is called long-acting and one is short-acting.

"Nowadays, we have super short acting as well... a very strong medication, but very risky to play around with," said Nguyen. "These forms work very differently... and are selected for each patient. It is a very strong medication, it requires a lot of understanding about yourself actually."

Eating habits, schedule, and lifestyle are all key components to selecting the right regimen. That begins and ends with an honest conversation with a doctor.

Always consult a doctor before making changes to medication and dosages. Advent Health offers services to help patients successfully manage diabetes.