Insulin  (copy)

Studies indicate diabetes patients can easily spend $1,300 a month or more on insulin and other supplies. AP file

Insulin is unaffordable for many Americans with diabetes, an untenable situation that leads patients to dilute their medication or go without it.

Some people with Type II diabetes can manage their problems with diet and exercise, but for many others insulin is not optional. The potential complications of untreated diabetes include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, blindness and amputation.

Lawmakers need to fix the problem quickly and use it as the starting point for a systematic reconsideration of the high price of prescription drugs.

Insulin costs are three times higher in the U.S. than in India, five times higher than in Japan and the United Kingdom and 20 times higher than in Italy, Tulsa World reporter Randy Krehbiel found.

The price of one form of insulin jumped 1,200% since its 1996 introduction, and diabetes patients can spend up to $1,300 a month on the prescription drug.

Oklahoma has been particularly hard hit by the situation. Oklahoma has the nation’s second highest rate of uninsured residents and the 43rd worst rate of adults with diabetes. SoonerCare, the state’s primary Medicaid program, spent $785 million on diabetes care for 53,000 patients in 2017, an average of $14,800 per patient. Well-insured Oklahomans might have some insulation from the high cost of insulin, but they know about another side effect of diabetes: higher insurance premiums.

Elected leaders, including Oklahoma politicians, have taken notice.

Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin, U.S. Sen. James Lankford and 5th District Congresswoman Kendra Horn have all spoken out on the issue.

“No man, woman or child should ever be forced to ration or dilute their insulin because they can’t afford their next month’s supply,” Mullin said in April, and he’s right.

Prescription prices have been a stumbling block in health care reform as prices soar along with patient co-pays and deductibles. For those without insurance and those who can only afford high-deductible plans, a doctor’s prescription can be a financial disaster.

It’s time for Congress to tackle the rising cost for all medications, and a critical place to start is with the outrageous cost of common, life-saving drugs like insulin.

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