MACON, Ga. — More than 30 million Americans live with diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1 million of them live in Georgia. The price of insulin has skyrocketed since 2002 and has left patients scrambling to buy their medicine.
Sabrina Burse looks into the obstacles facing diabetics and finds out what resources are available to help them purchase this lifesaving drug.
Jeremy Cumberbatch has lived with Type 1 diabetes for almost 26 years. Checking his blood sugar is something he has to do. His levels aren't supposed to exceed 120 milligrams per deciliter in the afternoon. His levels reached 408 mg/dL. His wife, Nyiefa Cumberbatch, says the cost of the insulin he needs is off the charts.
"The price of the insulin itself is absolutely ridiculous, even with insurance," said Nyeifa.
Cumberbatch says he spends about a $1,000 a month on insulin. He uses two different kinds, and buys four vials a month on average.
The working middle-class couple says it's not always enough, so Cumberbatch finds ways around it.
"Maybe today I just won't eat as much, or maybe I won't eat at all because I can't use all my insulin," said Cumberbatch.
A bipartisan congressional reports says insulin had a nearly 300 percent price increase between 2002 and 2013.
Diabetes specialist Dr. Thomas Jones says diabetics with high blood sugar could face serious consequences if they don't get the insulin they need.
"It's the leading cause of blindness, leading cause of kidney failure and having to go on dialysis, and leading cause of amputations of the lower extremities," said Jones.
What resources are available to help Central Georgians find insulin at an affordable rate?
Dr. Jones says the Macon Volunteer Clinic is an option. It provides free healthcare and medicine assistance, including insulin, for working adults who don't have insurance. Not everyone will qualify to receive care there, however.
Some of the providers may only offer free medicine for up to a year and then the patient has to reapply. If approved, company representative say the patient may have to wait a week or two before their next does is shipped to them.
That's not an option for people like the Cumberbatchs.
"We are going to be making too much for that, so you are making too much for help, but you are not making enough to help yourself. It makes no sense. The system is broken," said Nyiefa.
It's possible to apply for prescription drug savings cards through sites like Good Rx.
Even then, insulin like Lantus that was originally priced at $320 retail will still cost about $200 with the discount. Remember, a diabetic could go through multiple vials of insulin in a month.
Cumberbatch grows fruits and veggies to save money that goes toward his medicine. They hope pharmaceutical companies will lower insulin costs, but until then, they say they will do what they have to do to get the medicine.
"If that means working more hours at work or taking out a personal loan, I mean, you have to do what you have to do to be able to survive," said Nyiefa.
Dr. Jones says each patient's insulin needs are different. Their needs could depend on the patient's diet, exercise, and other health factors. Some people will require more insulin or even a specific type to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.