TOPEKA — Osage City resident Jodi Lucke takes it personally when pharmaceutical companies increase the price of insulin in a manner she considers a manifestation of greed.
Access to the medication is a life-and-death reality for her husband, Michael, an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic. There is no substitute for his daily insulin treatments.
“For the past 30 years, he has relied on medication and diet restrictions to stay healthy,” Lucke said. “It never occurred to me that one day we might be struggling with our finances to purchase a drug that is inexpensive to manufacture and one that my husband needs to save his life.”
She outlined frustration with price gouging by “Big Pharma” to members of the House Insurance Committee considering a bill placing a cap of $100 on a Kansan’s cost share for a 30-day supply of insulin. The restriction would apply to health insurance policies after Jan. 1 if House Bill 2557 became law.
Lucke said the cost of a one-month supply of drug maker Eli Lilly’s Humalog in 1996 was $21. The drug now sells for about $300 per vial. A Type 2 patient might require six vials each month.
The nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute reported the cost of insulin for a Type 1 patient doubled from an average of $2,800 in 2012 to $5,700 by 2016.
Bill Sneed, the Kansas lobbyist with America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association representing the health insurance industry, said the committee should table what he viewed as well-intentioned legislation that would merely mask drug pricing problems. The committee has taken no action on the bill.
Denise Cyzman, chief executive officer of Community Care Network of Kansas in Topeka, said she supported the cap because the high cost of insulin led people to ration the medicine. In 2019, the Network of Kansas’ three dozen clinics served 317,000 patients.
“When insulin is not taken appropriately,” she said, “the risk of serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputations and kidney disease, increases. Any could lead to emergency hospitalization and death.”
One estimate put the number of Kansans with diabetes at 280,000, while another indicated the prevalence among adults was 12%. Diabetes disproportionately affects low-income, elderly and racial and ethnic minority populations.