The Costs of Diabetes and the Rising Cost of Insulin


I recently had the opportunity to interview my friend Crystal Weaver.  She is a single mother who eats well, exercises at least 6 days a week with a personal trainer and is employed as a healthcare professional.  Ms. Weaver is also a Type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetic. She listens to her doctors and checks her blood sugar levels several times a day to make sure it is not running too high or too low. In the interview, she used a lot of emotions to describe how she was first diagnosed with diabetes.  She spoke of her shock, sadness, and anger. Like many people she thought diabetes would never happen to her.

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the US. Over 29 million people in the US have diabetes with an estimated 86 million with pre-diabetes.  Although I do not have diabetes, I have been a Certified Diabetes Peer Educator for 3 years. I was invited to participate in a program launched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to educate the community about diabetes.

Due to the alarming statistics and the health disparities that exist for diabetes in North Carolina and other states in the South, I decided to assist people with empowerment, setting  goals, and education for self- efficacy and better self-management of their diabetes condition. The program groups help promote a sense of community and facilitate open group discussions.  I found it is important to help people master their situations and make decisions to better their health status. It was important for me to learn what I could do to reduce disparities among African Americans, Hispanic/Latino, native peoples and those in rural populations, that have less access to education and care.

Insulin therapy is a common treatment for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but in recent years insulin prices have skyrocketed. People with diabetes spend 2.3 times more on healthcare costs than those without diabetes. The Diabetes Management’s Digital Edition reports that the cost of insulin has increased from $100 to $200 per month to $400 to $500 per month, depending on the brand. That does not include the cost of the other diabetic supplies such as testing strips, lancets, or the glucose testing meter.

For some Diabetics these increasing  cost are a matter of life or death. Many people with diabetes have to choose between their health and paying their bills to stay alive.  Recent news reports say people are willing to go overseas to Mexico to pay the lower costs for insulin.

The impact of diabetes complication on health causes a high risk of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and lower- limb amputations. Basically, diabetes can affect every part of the body.  Education can reduce adverse health outcomes related to diabetes. Although the exact cause of diabetes is not known. Various factors such as genetics, excess weight, and sedentary lifestyle make a difference.  Whether one suffers from pre-diabetes, type I or type II diabetes or gestational diabetes, I have found it important to have a team of people to assist in the management of the diagnosis and the disease at any stage.  It is the most important thing a person can do.

Ms. Weaver is very fortunate to have overcome her financial barriers to receiving her insulin and diabetes medical supplies.  Her desire to stay healthy and to raise and see her young daughter grow up is her motivation. Ms. Weaver makes it very clear that diabetes monitoring and having the medication she needs is essential to her survival .

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you are have issues with paying for your diabetes medications.  In some instances, they can give you samples and diabetes supplies when you are in financial need.

When you need education about our condition, there are several types of diabetes education programs. If you are looking to attend a class here are some key things to look out for. The class should be evidence based, some may have clinician oversight and others may be accredited.   If you know someone suffering from diabetes or want to receive more information about the disease, here are some resources to assist you.

ShLanda Burton, Dietetic Intern

Nutrition and Wellness Professional

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