A 27-year-old man has died after he was forced to rely on an over-the-counter form of insulin, a cheaper and less effective medication.
Josh Wilkerson was forced to start paying out of pocket for insulin last year when he turned 26 and aged out of his stepfather’s health insurance plan. Since then Wilkerson was paying $25 a vial for ReliOn, an over-the-counter form of insulin sold by Walmart. ReliOn takes approximately four hours to regulate a patient’s blood sugar, whereas prescription insulin takes about 20 minutes.
Wilkerson was not able to afford to pay full price for prescription insulin, which would have cost him almost $1200 a month. Although Wilkerson was offered limited health insurance through his employer he would still have had to shell out that much money due to his lack of full insurance coverage.
A few hours after taking the over-the-counter insulin Wilkerson suffered a series of strokes and fell into a diabetic coma, leading to his death. His blood sugar was 17 times higher than what is considered normal, reported The Washington Post.
“How many more young Type 1 diabetes patients have to die before something finally changes?” asked his fiancee, Rose Walters. Walters also suffers from Type 1 diabetes.
Unfortunately, Wilkerson is not the first to die after not being able to afford skyrocketing insulin prices. 21-year-old Jesimya David Scherer-Radcliff died earlier this year after attempting to ration his insulin and another young man, Alex Rasehawn Smith, died last year.
The same vial of insulin that cost $175 15 years ago now costs $1,487 today. Insulin prices nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016. Many people who aren’t lucky enough to have employer-provided health insurance not only have to afford an insurance premium every single month but their plans usually come with high deductibles that they have to satisfy before their insurance will cover any of their insulin costs.
The patent for the discovery of insulin was originally sold for a symbolic amount of $1, yet Big Pharma corporation Eli Lilly alone took in $2.6 billion in 2017 for just two of its insulin products.
Last month Senator Bernie Sanders traveled to Canada with a caravan of Type 1 diabetes patients seeking cheaper insulin in order to highlight the never-ending greed of the pharmaceutical industry. A vial of insulin in the United States is about ten times more expensive than in Canada.