Heartland diabetes patients hope for cheaper insulin

Insulin prices and shortage

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS (KFVS) - U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) released a statement after a drug maker announced it would sell generic insulin for a lower cost.

Eli Lilly announced it would be selling a less expensive, generic version of its rapid-acting insulin, Humalog.

Humalog was introduced in 1996 and cost $21, but today that same vial now costs $329.

“Humalog can cost as little as $38 in Canada and yet Americans are charged up to $329," said Durbin. "Now Eli Lilly is lowering the price in the U.S. for selected customers to $140. Charging Americans four times what Canadians pay for the same drug hardly merits an outpouring of national gratitude to Eli Lilly.”

As lawmakers push for even deeper cuts, local patients are feeling the pain.

One patient at a medical facility with diabetes is concerned not only about the price of his insulin, but also the complications that come with not having it.

Allen Cavitt is 60-years-old and has had diabetes for 10 years. He said his options are limited.

“I’m either going to get some help or I will probably end up back in the hospital," Cavitt said.

Health complications forced Cavitt out of work back in January, so his health insurance runs out at the end of March.

The cost of just one of the insulin Cavitts need is $1,000.

“When I don’t have the insurance, it’s going to be a thousand dollars, somehow, someway, hopefully i can get my cost down so i can keep taking my medicine," Cavitt said.

Dr. Jeff Ripperda is a family practitioner at Shawnee Health Care in Murphysboro.

“It’s frustrating, because insulin is expensive for a lot of people and there’s not really an alternative," he said.

Cavitt is one of Ripperda’s patients. Ripperda says unfortunately there patients who will not take insulin because they afford it, so he hopes other companies follow Eli Lilly in providing a less expensive generic version of high price medications.

“The only entity that benefits from having high price insulin are the pharmaceutical companies,” Ripperda said.

In addition, he says as a healthcare provider he does feel a level of responsibility to dollars wisely.

“You can put pressure on the pharmaceutical companies actually by prescribing the cheaper things so long they’re no less effective than the more expensive options out there," Ripperda said.

“They can help us instead of hurt us because they are not helping us right now, at all," said Cavitt. "Right now you can’t do nothing, all you can do is try and pay for your medicine.”

Durbin and other lawmakers urged the FDA last week to speed up approvals of lower-cost, generic insulin products in order to help lower costs of the life-saving drug.

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