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He lost his insurance and turned to a cheaper form of insulin. It was a fatal decision.


(Washington Post) – Josh Wilkerson was alone, in sleeping quarters above the Northern Virginia dog kennel where he worked, when he suffered a series of strokes that would prove fatal.

He had aged out of his stepfather’s health insurance plan on his 26th birthday and eventually switched to over-the-counter insulin. Like many other diabetics his age, he could not afford the prescription brand he needed.

A few hours after taking another dose of the lower-grade medication that June day in Leesburg, Wilkerson was in the throes of a diabetic coma — his blood sugar level 17 times higher than what is considered normal.

His death at age 27 illustrates the worst-case scenario for thousands of lower-income people living with diabetes in the United States who depend on over-the-counter insulin that — for $25 a vial at Walmart — sells for one-tenth of what the more effective version costs.

“It’s very hard,” said his fiancee, Rose Walters, 27, who, like Wilkerson, has a genetically driven form of the disease known as Type 1 diabetes. “How many more young Type 1 diabetes patients have to die before something finally changes?”

The skyrocketing price of insulin — which emulates the hormone secreted by the pancreas to regulate glucose in the blood — has stirred widespread outrage in the United States, amid reports of people dying after rationing the medication, begging online for help with costs or venturing out of the country in search of better deals.

In Congress, a bipartisan panel has called for legislation aimed at reducing insulin costs for the 7.5 million Americans who rely on the medication, prompting drug manufacturers to offer discounts. Some states are pursuing their own laws.

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