Students with diabetes share experiences about rising insulin prices

Students with diabetes share experiences about rising insulin prices

Students with diabetes share experiences about rising insulin prices
February 14
10:02 2019

Infographic by: Nikki Johnson-Bolden.

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is “a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose).” However, for these two UNT students, diabetes not only affects the way their bodies process insulin, the hormone that turns glucose into energy, but the way they live their every day lives.  

Students Morgan Franklin and Bri Zaeske both have Type 1 diabetes, which usually develops during childhood and adolescence. As these students grew up and started to pursue degrees at UNT, they learned how to navigate the effects of Type 1 diabetes. 

A new challenge has emerged with the rising price of insulin and other medical supplies though, potentially putting the health and bank accounts of students with diabetes at risk.

Morgan Franklin, art history senior 

Morgan Franklin.

Franklin was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11 in 2008. She said the stereotype that personal choices cause diabetes is prevalent but incorrect.

“[People think diabetics] gave this to ourselves by eating poorly or [being obese], but even in Type 2 that is not always true,” Franklin said. “[There is] the lack of understanding that [diabetes] is a very serious disease. When we get ignored, in terms of people understanding why health care is so important to us, it’s very frustrating.”

Since getting diagnosed, Franklin said her diabetes has affected her in ways she had not expected.

“[My diabetes] affects how I choose to go about my education and what I want to do with my career,” Franklin said. “I can’t take any risks because I am concerned with having health care. Once I started getting older, I realized [diabetes] was going to influence certain choices in my life.”

As an adult paying bills and trying to finish college, Franklin said she feels “constant anxiety” about being able to get enough insulin.

“Realistically, my insulin supplies keep me at a baseline functioning level month to month,” Franklin said. “Without insurance, [insulin] would probably cost around $1,200 a month. That’s more than my rent. In a matter of a week or two without insulin, [I would] die.”

Now that many diabetics have resorted to rationing insulin or even going without it for extended periods of time, Franklin has opted for unconventional ways to get insulin, such as shipping it from Canada. However, she said that having to get medication from outside the country should not be a diabetic’s best bet.

“The bigger problem is these huge pharmaceutical companies,” Franklin said. “As far as I know, there’s not a ton of legislation barring them from having free range with [their] prices. It has gone up a massive amount even since I was diagnosed in 2008. I think I, as well as other diabetics, just want to see someone do something.”

Bri Zaeske, psychology and criminal justice sophomore

Bri Zaeske

Getting diagnosed with diabetes at 6 years old is one of Zaeske’s earliest memories. During a museum trip with her mother and sister, Zaeske said she constantly had to use the bathroom and drink water, which are both signs of having high blood sugar.

“My mom is Type 1 diabetic as well, so she checked my blood sugar when we got home,” Zaeske said. “Luckily, she caught it really early. I had what we call a ‘honeymoon phase,’ so I didn’t have to take shots for the first couple of months after my diagnosis.”

Zaeske said she did not get a “real explanation” of diabetes and the effects it could have on her life until she was 10 years old. At one point, her doctor told her she had to get into shape or she would not be able to dance.

“I’ve been in dance since I was 3, and at one point my blood sugar was crazy all the time,” Zaeske said. “[By the time I was in] high school, diabetes was just something I had. It was no longer a focus of my life.”

To Zaeske, there is a clear disconnect between the health care industry and the reality of living with diabetes.

“[Anyone] can understand the textbook definition of diabetes perfectly, but [they are] never going to understand it like someone who is living it,” Zaeske said. “People who are selling the medication may understand things on a base level, but not the way that people who live with it do. They have never felt their blood sugars rising, which makes you feel like death. The other day my blood sugar was so high, I couldn’t get up and go to class because I was so sick.” 

Zaeske said she believes the solution to rising insulin prices is empathy. Diabetes is a disease that can’t be cured, only managed. Balancing blood sugar levels is an everyday concern, and amid rising insulin prices, Franklin and Zaeske say all they want is for those in charge to make it easier for them and other diabetics to afford the care they need to stay alive.

“The big companies don’t want to allow people to live, basically,” Zaeske said. “They need to maybe put a price cap on insulin. It shouldn’t be so inaccessible to people who need it. I just would really like to see those people who are in charge of the prices have a heart.”  

Featured Image: Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. 

Headshots by: Isabel Anes.

About Author

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

Nikki Johnson-Bolden

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1 Comment

  1. Betsy
    Betsy February 16, 09:34

    What can we do to solve these high prices?
    Should we email our senators or president?

    Reply to this comment

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