Some were faced with the choice of paying their rent or paying for insulin. A few saw their children die after they rationed the lifesaving medication.
They were all part of a group of protesters stationed outside the Cambridge, Mass., office of insulin maker Sanofi on a recent morning, rallying against the rising price of the drug.
“I’m demanding Sanofi to decrease the cost of insulin. It is a medication that all type 1 diabetics need to survive. And without it, they will die like my daughter did,” said Antroinette Worsham, of Cincinnati, founder of the nonprofit T1 Diabetes Journey.
In April 2017, her daughter Antavia Lee-Worsham, who had type 1 diabetes, died at 22 after struggling to pay for insulin. She had aged out of an assistance program at 21 and would sometimes get insulin from her sister Antanique, who also has type 1 diabetes.
Worsham, along with Nicole Smith-Holt and James Holt, brought the ashes of their children, in hopes of giving them to Sanofi executives. However, they were stopped by cops and were not allowed on Sanofi’s grounds.
“Nobody would come down and face me,” said Smith-Holt, a financial aid specialist from Richfield, Minn. “Nobody would take his ashes … so it’s frustrating. It makes me very angry.”
Her son, Alec Smith, died in June 2017 at the age of 26, weeks after aging out of her health insurance plan.
According to a 2016 analysis, the estimated annual cost of insulin per patient nearly tripled over an 11-year stretch, from $231 in 2002 to $736 in 2013.
Sanofi is among the nation’s largest insulin makers — several of which have hiked the prices of the drug in recent years.
“The price gouging has become such a problem that insulin now costs more than my rent, and I have to choose,” said Myranda Pierce, a graduate student at Boston University School of Medicine who has type 1 diabetes.
Sanofi spokesman Nicolas Kressmann said in an email statement he shares “similar concerns” with the protesters. He encouraged people with diabetes who cannot afford their medication to call the company’s hotline at 888-847-4877.
But Pierce said programs like those are not enough.
“I shouldn’t have to go beg for my insulin. It should be affordable to me.”