Diabetes Patients Make Tough Decisions Amidst Increasing Insulin Costs

Limited funds for medicine and healthy food force challenging choices

Robert Mangino
May 11, 2018 - 6:41 pm
Medical Bills and Insulin

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Insulin costs have almost tripled in the last decade, leading to some difficult decisions for the almost 30 million Americans requiring treatment.

Diabetes affects nearly one in ten Americans, most of which are over 60, and some are forced to choose between treating their disease and buying groceries.

Dr. Patricia Bononi, medical director of Allegheny Health Network’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health, told the KDKA Radio Afternoon News many older diabetes patients are already struggling with balancing with fixed incomes.

“Patients are already burdened with managing their food and their diabetes medicine and then they have to deal with this cost of insulin, which is life-sustaining,” Dr. Bononi said. “And it becomes unaffordable for many patients just because the cost has tripled in a very short time.”

As prices increase, the decisions become more difficult. Dr. Bononi says struggling patients cut costs where they can, even if it threatens their wellbeing.

“I see it every day. Patients cut back on the amount of insulin they take and that can lead to higher blood glucose levels, or they cut back on food or they have to make these tough decisions about paying electric bills and paying for their insulin,” Dr. Bononi said. “So they’re really put in a tough spot because they need this medicine to live.”

On Friday, President Donald Trump and Health Secretary Alex Azar laid out long-awaited proposals for reducing prescription drug prices in a Rose Garden speech. The plan focuses on increasing private competition to lower costs.

Other proposals include scrapping a rule preventing pharmacists from suggesting lower-cost, out-of-pocket solutions, forcing drug makers to put prices in advertisements, and speeding the process of switching medications from prescription to over-the-counter.

But some health care providers are already trying to tackle the issue. Allegheny Health Network opened a Healthy Food Center at West Penn Hospital last month, where patients lacking access to food can receive nutritious food items and shop with a dietician to learn about disease-specific diets.

Dr. Bononi explains that many patients can’t afford the healthy foods necessary for managing diabetes. Patients can visit the Healthy Food Center once every 30 days for six months after being referred.

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