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Skyrocketing insulin prices hurting diabetics

A Boise woman is pleading for help and wanting to raise awareness about this rampant problem, as her husband struggles to afford his insulin.

BOISE -- We all know health care costs today are too expensive, but one life-saving drug in particular is sky-rocketing in price, causing a crisis for many Americans with diabetes.

A Boise woman is pleading for help and wanting to raise awareness about this rampant problem, as her husband struggles to afford his insulin.

A startling realization: The price of insulin has more than tripled in a 10-year span. It's unaffordable for so many diagnosed with this terrible disease - with and without insurance. Some are having to make tough choices about how to afford it, or how to go without their normal dosage.

"It's really hard and it makes me angry. Makes me angry that something that he needs to live is unattainable," Boisean Sasha Walter said. "Something that's going to kill you if you don't have it is going to cost thousands! That's not right, that's not how this world should be."

Out of frustration and desperation, Walter took to the NextDoor app to ask if anyone had extra insulin; her husband Greg is a Type 1 diabetic and doesn't get insurance through his new job until August.

"I've tried every other resource, maxed out credit cards, we've done everything we can to keep him alive and I thought well what could it hurt," Walter said.

Without insurance, Greg's insulin is unaffordable. His fast-acting insulin is extremely expensive, Walter says, at more than $1,000 a month (hundreds of dollars per vial) without insurance.

Neighbors were supportive and recommended resources and websites. There are programs through the insulin manufacturers for people without insurance, but Walter says to apply you must fill out a lot of paperwork, get doctors to fill out forms, and it takes about four to six weeks before they can determine if someone is eligible for the program.

"Which, right now, four to six weeks isn't going to work for us," Walter said. "I tried all those resources and kept getting closed doors, pretty much," Walter said.

Her husband takes both long- and fast- acting insulin every single day.

Now that he's on his last couple vials, he's pulling a risky maneuver many diabetics do to stay alive, but is strongly discouraged by doctors.

"Rationing his insulin, not taking as much long-acting, not taking enough of his fast-acting. So he's been not feeling well," Walter told KTVB. "I'm losing sleep every night because I wake up multiple times checking to make sure he's breathing and not sweating and not having a low or too much of a high."

"He said, 'I play a game every day with my blood sugars to make sure that I stay alive.' And it breaks my heart, it really truly does," Walter added.

"It's very difficult to understand how that has happened when the technology has been around for a long time," Terry Reilly Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Barron told KTVB.

A heartbreaking story reflecting that of many Americans' struggling with the soaring costs of insulin.

"Anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to - in general - about $1,500 a month for a vial, vials of insulin, which is very expensive," Dr. Barron said. "If you're a Type 1 diabetic you cannot live without insulin, you have to have insulin. It's like water - it would be like water in a desert. You have to have it."

Fortunately, Dr. Barron says, there are options available and resources like Terry Reilly Health Services and other 340B pharmacies that can help.

"For example, if you come to Terry Reilly and you're a Terry Reilly patient you can get your insulin that you would need - that would normally be $1,500 - you can get it for about $22 to $23 a month," Barron said.

Dr. Barron says Terry Reilly has three of the four most common types of insulin on hand: Levemir, NovoLog and Humalog, not Lantus. You just have to be seen by a doctor there first before they can write you a prescription.

"If you have an urgent need, something like needing insulin, you should be able to get in same day. There's no reason why you can't," Barron added. "Our average patients will pay about $30 for an office visit. Then for medications most of our patients can get three to six months worth of medicine for less than $30."

A visit that could ultimately save people like Greg.

"I just want everyone to be very aware of what's going on with the diabetes in this area and everywhere. And just everybody needs to fight the fight because if we don't it's going to continue to get worse. And we're going to have a lot more people lose their lives that don't need to," Walter said.

"Be a very good advocate for yourself and your family," Dr. Barron advises, "Remember you're the one that has the disease, you're the one that has the condition and you're the one who lives with it. You understand it very well. So make sure you advocate for yourself."

Sasha says now that she's learned about Terry Reilly, she plans to get in touch with them to find out if they can help her husband. They set up a GoFundMe to help raise money to pay for Greg's insulin.

If Terry Reilly doesn't have what you need in their pharmacy, Barron says their medication assistance program can help.

"You fill out all the forms, you have to meet income requirements, not have insurance. There's a whole bunch of requirements you have. And then what happens is they process it and then they send the medication to us and we're able to give it to folks," Barron said.

But - similar to the drug manufacturers' programs - it takes about four to six weeks to process and get you the meds.

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