Minnesota parents say son died because he couldn't afford high cost of insulinKTRK-TV
December 16, 2018
ST. PAUL, Minnesota - The cost of insulin in the US is on the rise at an alarming rate. After a Minnesota man died because he couldn't afford insulin, his parents and other families dealing with diabetes want answers.
"I'm here today to share a very painful and personal account of the death of my son Alec," Nicole Smith-Holt told Minnesota lawmakers at the State Capitol on Tuesday.
Alec Smith died last year of diabetic ketoacidosis, KSTP reports. Smith-Holt and her husband, James Holt Jr., struggled to tell lawmakers about what they call their son's senseless death.
"Can you even imagine what it was like to tell people that your son died at 26 because he struggled to afford the one medicine created to save his life?" Holt said.
Smith-Holt said her son walked out of a pharmacy without his medicine because he needed to pay $1,300 for his insulin supplies.
The couple and other families dealing with diabetes want the Minnesota State Legislature to step in and help. Patients who attended the meeting explained how the cost of a vial of insulin, which only lasts for a week or two, went from about $21 in 1996 to $300-$400 in 2018.
"I believe the cost of insulin is immorally high," said Senator Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville.
KSTP said part of the problem is the lack of competition. Three companies make about 96 percent of the insulin manufactured in the US.
"This insulin pen that we bought in the United States cost us $140. It would last us about a week," said the mother of a 12-year-old with diabetes. "This is an insulin pen that we bought in Taiwan. It cost us $8. Here's one that we bought in Canada for $13."
There were no pharmaceutical representatives at the meeting to explain the price disparities. In the past, they have pointed to reimbursement and discount health plans. But often, those are not available until high deductibles are met.
KSTP said it's unclear what the legislature could do, but some advocates for diabetes patients want, at a minimum, more price transparency required for drug companies.
Smith-Holt said she has made it her life's mission to ensure other parents don't face the tragedy she did.
"I strongly believe that every single individual in the United States has the right to affordable and accessible health care and medications," she said.