West Virginians caravan to Canada to get cheaper insulin

West Virginia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WOWK) — It’s a scene seen time and again across the Mountain State – two dozen people climbing aboard a charter bus. In a state known for its wild places and colorful falls, you see it happen every day. But these are not tourists – these are people looking for cheaper health care. They are headed from West Virginia to Canada – for insulin.

We are going to show the American people that something must be done to make insulin more affordable for all Americans.”

Margaret Reider, Mother of a Type 1 Diabetic

Approximately 255,695 people in West Virginia, or 16.2% of the adult population, have diabetes. Of these, an estimated 48,000 have diabetes but don’t know it, greatly increasing their health risk. In addition, 518,000 people in West Virginia, 35.9% of the adult population, have prediabetes with blood glucose levels higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Every year an estimated 13,000 people in West Virginia are diagnosed with diabetes.

And that is what inspired Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer and Adrian Kiger Olmstead to start a caravan that traveled from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Niagara Falls Ontario, to retrieve insulin.

“The reason we are doing this is because we want to pass legislation in West Virginia, we are doing this to make a point, that it’s crazy that you have to go to another country, to get something that you cannot survive without,” said Del. Fleischauer.

The cost of diabetes in West Virginia

People with diabetes have medical expenses approximately 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes. Total direct medical expenses for diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes in West Virginia was estimated at $1.9 billion in 2012. In addition, another $627 million was spent on indirect costs from lost productivity due to diabetes.

According to the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, West Virginia has the highest adult rate of diabetes at 16.2%. Nine of the 10 states with the highest type 2 diabetes rates are in the South. A record-high number of Americans—40%, or more than 100 million adults—are living with diabetes or prediabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without significant changes, as many as 30% of people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

West Virginia ranks #1 in the nation when it comes to adult diabetes
  • Since the 1990s, the cost of insulin has increased over 1,200%, yet the cost of production for a vial of analog insulin is between $3.69 and $6.16.
  • Spending by patients with type 1 diabetes on insulin nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, increasing from $2900 to $5700.
  • One of every four patients with type 1 diabetes has had to ration their insulin due to cost.

West Virginia House of Delegates is trying to pass a bill that would put a cap on co-pay for insulin.

If West Virginia passes this bill it would make it the third state in the U.S. to do it – along with Colorado and Illinois.

We already have enough to do as diabetics in our daily lives. So, when you add the stress of having to pay more money, it just adds to the anxiety that also effects your health.”

Adrian Kiger Olmstead, Type 1 Diabetic/WV Chapter president for #Insulin4All

The hope for all here is that they would no longer have to leave their country for another country – to stay alive.

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