Americans are dying because they can’t afford their insulin

“My son and Jesy, they were murdered. They were killed by big Pharma. The cause of death should actually be on their death certificates, corporate greed.”


Prices of insulin have skyrocketed over the past 15 years and Americans are paying with their lives.

The same vial of insulin that cost $175 15 years ago costs $1,487 today, according to cost data from Elsevier’s Gold Standard Drug Database. The unaffordable cost of insulin is causing some diabetics to ration their insulin.

21-year-old Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff died as a result of rationing his insulin. “The cost of insulin is ridiculous. It is hard for me to even go in there and look at his casket,” said his father, David Radcliff Jr. III. He is gone now. I can’t say, ‘hey let’s go here. I just think this country is backwards and I am a veteran.  I have seen other countries and how they operate.”  

Another young man, Alec Raeshawn Smith, died one month after rationing his insulin when he lost his healthcare coverage. His mom, Nicole, is now an advocate for affordable insulin, reports KARE 11.

“After losing my 26- year-old son to the same situation and fighting so hard at the legislative level to pass the Alec Smith emergency insulin act and it going nowhere and telling them if they did not implement this law we were going to lose  more lives this just goes to show  we were right,” said Nicole.

Alec opted to go uninsured when he was faced with a $450-a-month premium and a $7600 deductible before his insurance company would fully cover his insulin, which has an average cost of $250 a vial.

“My son and Jesy, they were murdered. They were killed by big Pharma. The cause of death should actually be on their death certificates, corporate greed,” she said. “I want justice for all of their deaths.”

Three pharmaceutical companies control the majority of the insulin market – Sanofi, Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk. Insulin can be produced for just a few dollars, yet these companies mark up the price as much as 5,000 percent.

At least three people died in 2017 from trying to ration their insulin and at least three more died in 2018. According to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine, as many as one in four people who rely on insulin have had to ration their supply.

The patent for the discovery of insulin was originally discovered by scientists at the University of Toronto for the symbolic amount of $1. Yet now Big Pharma companies are making millions off of it. Eli Lilly along took in $2.6 billion in 2017 for just two of its insulin products.

Insulin prices nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016 even though the usage stayed flat. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes spent about $5,705 on insulin in 2016 versus $2,864 in 2012 but daily insulin use rose by only 3 percent.

In March Eli Lilly announced that they will offer a generic version of insulin that will cost 50% less than its name brand counterpart, however even the chairman and chief executive officer of the company admits, “While this change is a step in the right direction, all of us in the health care community must do more to fix the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for Americans living with chronic conditions.”

Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. The top of prescription drug pricing has been a popular talking point among 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Bernie Sanders has promised to cut prescription drug prices by half if elected and late last year Elizabeth Warren introduced an ‘ambitious’ new bill to lower drug prices.


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.