PORTSMOUTH — Bob Slavin says he has to ration the insulin he needs to control his Type 2 diabetes.
The Franklin man said he was diagnosed in 2001 and started taking insulin in 2005. Today, he takes two different forms of insulin, long acting and short acting, which requires seven injections every day.
“The cost has gone up to prohibitive status. When I get the coverage gap in Medicare, I have to make a choice of, do I pay my rent, or do I buy my insulin? It’s a very difficult choice,” Slavin said.
“I am one of many that ration my doses many times, try to make it last. I figure a little bit is better than none,” Slavin said.
That leads to other health issues, he said.
Slavin and two other men shared their stories about living with diabetes during a press conference held Friday afternoon at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s new facility in Portsmouth at Pease Tradeport.
Jay Dunigan, of York, Maine, lived in Londonderry for 30 years. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 10 years old.
Dunigan said diabetes runs in his family and his son was diagnosed at 18 years old.
“It touches my life every minute of every day,” Dunigan said. “Right now, I’m thinking about, ‘Okay, I’m kind of excited just being here and my adrenaline is letting me know that and my glucose is demonstrating that right now.’ Now, I’m hoping I didn’t take too much insulin, so I show you the other side of things.”
Dunigan said under a high deductible health insurance plan, the price for insulin hits $600 a month for six months before it is reduced back to $40 a month.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, held the press conference to talk about their new insulin pricing bill, the Insulin Price Reduction Act.
They say the price of several popular brands of insulin has quadrupled in the last decade.
“There is absolutely no reason for drug companies and middlemen, those pharmacy benefit managers, to demand that 30 million Americans with diabetes reach deeper and deeper into their pockets in order to have the medication they need to survive,” Shaheen said.
The Insulin Price Reduction Act would return insulin back to the price it was at in 2006 by holding pharmacy benefit managers and insulin manufacturers responsible for keeping prices down.
It would restrict the rebate system between drug companies and pharmacy benefit managers. Private insurance plans would be required to waive the deductible for insulin products that meet pricing requirements.
Insulin manufacturers would need to reduce their prices in 2020 and limit any price increases in future years.
Collins said they are targeting pharmacy benefit managers because they make the decision on what type of insulin to choose for a particular insurance plan.
“The way that pharmacy benefit manager is compensated is usually a percentage of the list price of the drug,” Collins said.
The rebate system also needs to be addressed, the senators say.
“The other problem that happens is (that) the rebates that are negotiated by the pharmacy benefit manager usually do not make it to the person buying the drug at the pharmacy counter,” Collins added.
Collins said she is hopeful the Senate can take up the Insulin Price Reduction Act this fall.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 30.3 million people in the country have diabetes. That is 9.4% of the U.S. population.
Eighty-four million adults older than 18 have prediabetes, according to estimates by the CDC. That is over one-third of the U.S. population.