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Despite recent price cuts, some are still struggling to pay for insulin

Despite recent price cuts, some are still struggling to pay for insulin
Despite recent price cuts, some are still struggling to pay for insulin 01:58

NORTH TEXAS ( – Millions of Americans still struggle to afford insulin, a life-saving medication for those with diabetes, despite recent moves to lower the cost. 

Nadia Stanback was diagnosed with type one diabetes at just 3-years-old. The disease is all-consuming. 

"I wish it were day-to-day, but it's literally minute-by-minute," said her mom, Natalie Stanback. "It's consistently present. So when she wakes up, our first thought is what is your blood sugar?" 

While other families' biggest worries might be mortgage or car payments, the Stanbacks often pay thousands a month to maintain insurance and get Nadia the medical equipment and insulin she needs. 

"It takes my sleep, it takes my breath, it makes my heartbeat really, really fast because insulin is something my daughter cannot live without," Stanback said. "More immediately than water in some cases." 

When Eli Lilly announced last week it would cut prices by 70% and cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month, Stanback was skeptical at first. 

"I didn't get excited," she said. "I was like okay, let me go read the fine print." 

Turns out, there isn't a catch. Nadia already uses Eli Lilly insulin and will soon see the benefit of the price drop. 

But it's not good news for everyone. 

"Seven in 10 people who are taking insulin today are taking non-Lilly products, and so a lot of people are still in need of access to more affordable insulin," said Aaron Turner-Phifer, director of advocacy for JDRF, the nonprofit research fund looking for a cure for type one diabetes. 

In 2018, the average price of insulin in the U.S. was 10 times higher than the average price in other wealthy countries, according to a report from the Rand Corporation released in 2021. 

"It's not only a uniquely American problem, it defies the logic of economics," Turner-Phifer said. "We have drugs that have been available for the better part of 30 years that, for a variety of reasons, have increased in price, despite having competition." 

The skyrocketing costs can have life-or-death consequences. 

"Unfortunately, we're having situations where patients have to ration other expenses or can't even afford the insulin," said Dr. Adenike Atanda-Oshikoya, a clinical pharmacist at the HSC Health Center for Older Adults. "We've also had some patients stop and not tell us, and then we see them a couple of months later and their numbers are really high or they're now in the hospital because they've had a high blood sugar episode." 

Not managing diabetes properly can lead to serious complications, like vision loss, kidney failure and stroke. 

Eli Lilly's price cut is a step in the right direction, but advocates say more pharmaceutical companies, policy makers, and health insurance pans need to take action too. 

"Our ultimate goal is that folks have freedom and peace of mind that no matter what's happening in life, where they happen to be employed or located, they have access to affordable insulin," said Turner-Phifer. 

Even though the fight is far from over, the Stanbacks are grateful the cost of insulin is one less thing they have to worry about now. 

"And it I think it gives everyone hope who faces these uncertainties and insecurities with medication," Stanback said. 

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