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 (SNY) 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.

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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.”

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  • Is there a way to donate insulin to the needy. I’m willing to help them out. Especially the poor children falling through the cracks, but anyone needing it E-mail me right away.

    • Steve, there are organizations to donate to, including Type1Diabetes Defense Foundation and T1 International (the situation in other countries is also dire, including Syria and Africa), and if you go on Twitter, follow #insulin4all and you will see many postings, including some where individuals are asking for insulin to get them through the month. There are probably other organizations as well. Get involved in making insulin affordable through permanent changes with legislators’ actions and constantly staying on message to Alex Azar at HHS (the fox guarding the henhouse) and others in position of power. There are protests at the 3 manufacturers periodically. Bernie Sanders is working on this issue https://www.sanders.senate.gov/insulinprices.

  • I was told by my diabetes educator that Arizona Walmart sell regular insulin (R) for $35 because it’s a life-saving medication. If I recall correctly she said patients did not need prescriptions but maybe a letter from their doctor.

    • Yes, Walmarts all over the USA sell Human Insulins, Novolin R (Regular, faster) and N (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn, slower) insulins at reasonable prices. The reason that it’s sold at such low prices ($24.88 in Ohio BTW) is that it IS insulin, the newer faster (or other things) “insulins” are officially known as “insulin Analogs”(hence Humalog or Novolog) because they are man made creations that have taken the original Human Insulin structure and traded 2 end groups of cells for each other, so they do things that Human Insulin couldn’t. The reason that these can be sold for incredible prices is that they escape the rule set by DR Banting, discovery of insulin, that insulin will ALWAYS be available as a nromal, non-prescription drug that any diabetic can buy at any pharmacy at any time. The current high priced situation is created by greedy drug companies, ass you probably know already.

  • If you go to other countries, you will find that an “unlimited” supply of medicine means you wait. That means death for someone. You think your life is more important but someones’ Grandma is to them and they want docs to save their lives at all cost. Docs won’t choose that because they know how hard it is and leads to no where. Choices everywhere.
    China and India are quite civilized. India you pay for medicine. There are those who die. There are those like Naryana Hrudalaya who are able to charge others and get charity but only a fraction of those with no money get care. China’s socialized medicine is bad enough that they tell you to go to the pay part. Same for other groups. In England, they had a woman with a gyn emergency who was examined in the hallway. Humiliating but they had nowhere to put her.
    Not a good situation. However, there are ways we could work on scaling back the CEO’s 8 figure salaries and other items to make things a bit more equitable. Same goes for hospitals and other monopolies. Its getting legislators to do it.

    • I do not believe there is much waiting for basic medicines such as insulin in other OECD countries. Using India and China as examples is misleading.

      ERs often have overflows and there is often a lack of privacy in the USA.

  • If a “civilized” western country fails to provide insulin to its citizens with a non-acquired disease such as Type 1 Diabetes, then that country degrades itself to “third-world” level. That is not just the result of greedy pharma companies, but of the characters who run the country. And those are elected by voters. The whole USA needs a vast humanitarian attitude change.

  • “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.”–Ah, yes, Mr. Kressmann shares “similar” concerns. REALLY? Does he worry daily about his kids dying because they can’t afford insulin, a drug that his company gauges chronically ill people for? What is his “similar” worry, his pay package? His stock portfolio? His jet being late? The board members of Sanofi who share in this obscene and immoral situation? He and Alex Azar cry crocodile tears. What a hypocrite.

  • It strikes me that the USA started with the claim that all are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. How does the predatory pricing of “insulin analogs” give USA diabetics ANY of the 3?
    Lack of insulin, or rationing it, will kill us, so that claim is not supported.
    Liberty disappears when you need to work as a slave to the high cost, so that claim is not supported.
    The pursuit of happiness is out of reach, because how can any diabetic be happy when they are subjected to the above problems, and the worry trying to survive.
    In short, the high cost of insulin should be declared illegal based on these considerations.

  • These “the cost of insulin is too high” articles continue to spread misinformation. Medicaid, employee-based insurance, and the ACA all cover insulin for type 1 diabetics (of which I am one!). Out of pocket, 1 vial of Novolog would cost me $200. With insurance, I pay $10 per vial. It’s true that insulin prices may be rising for the pharma companies to make a profit, but insurance, which is now more than ever accessible to Americans of varying economic means, makes it affordable to all–and if a T1 is destitute, pharma gives it away for free. The article doesn’t explore the crucial question: Why didn’t these people have insurance?

    • Where do you buy movolog for 200 a month. Most type 1s use 3-4 vials a month. We have insurance with a high deductible. Which is relatively common now adays. My sons insulin costs 300 a vial or 900 a month until our 6,000 deductible is met. Even 200 a vialis 600-800 a month. That is not insignificant for a large part of the population. You have to make under roughly 40,000 to get Medicaid. Not all employer plans cover type 1. That is if your employer pays extra to get preventive coverage. Many companies no longer offer plans with that. There is a segment of the population who makes a decent income and has insurance but still gets stuck paying high cost. It is a 20 yr old version of a 100 yrbold drug. Just bc you don’t pay for the 300 – someone is – your insurance and employer. It impacts premiums then. Your arrogance is very sad.

    • But you do realize insurance plans vary widely, right? Some people have high copays, or no drug coverage or huge deductibles they have to meet? In my state, there is only one ACA insurer and it’s hugely expensive. And, Medicaid wasn’t expanded.

    • In response to the comments below, I am not arrogant. It is true that many companies that offer their employees insurance are opting for high-deductible plans only, bc they save the employers’ money. As far as I know, the ACA offers 3 tiers of plans; all 3 have drug coverage, to varying degrees. I am not disagreeing with the notion that drug companies are overcharging for some types of insulin. I’m simply saying that there are always ways to get insulin–perhaps a cheaper version of what you can afford based on your insurance, but there are no drug plans anywhere that refuse to provide some form of insulin to their customers. I agree that insulin prices overall should be reduced so that cheaper high deductible plans can cover more types of insulin. I’m not arrogant, merely pointing out facts that the article doesn’t mention.

  • I find all these insulin related stories kind of irritating.
    As there are millions of people needing insulin, what about organize themselves into a not-for-profit association and commission the production of insulin doses to some contractors? Insulin is not protected by patents and it is a quite straightforward recombinant protein to produce

  • Stop corporate welfare. I’ve seen millions go to multibillion dollar corps, where that money can help people like this, schools/buses, etc.

    Priorities in this country are wrong. The already rich companies don’t need the help. Buying votes and politicians is wrong at peoples’ lives.

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