Upstate woman fighting to lower cost of insulin for diabetes - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate woman fighting to lower cost of insulin for diabetes

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Debbie Boettcher holds a box that contained her insulin Novolog (FOX Carolina) Debbie Boettcher holds a box that contained her insulin Novolog (FOX Carolina)
Research shows insulin costs have tripled in since 2002 (FOX Carolina) Research shows insulin costs have tripled in since 2002 (FOX Carolina)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Debbie Boettcher's life is constantly threatened by diabetes.

"I've lived with Type 1 Diabetes for approximately 45 years," she said, carrying a bag full of boxes of insulin and other treatment kits for her condition. 

The Spartanburg County woman said her daily routine to manage her diabetes is extensive and expensive. 

"Checking my blood sugar, eating, then checking my blood sugar again," she said. "Every two to three days I'm supposed to change my insulin pump," she said, pointing to the small machine attached to her hip. She said it is there 24/7, allowing her to live a mainly syringe-free life. The insulin pump she wears tells her when her blood sugar is dangerously low, and pumps the drug into her system when needed. 

For her, having insulin is a matter of life and death.

"If I hadn't gotten on the pump after my kids were born, I probably wouldn't be here today," said Boettcher. 

Rising costs in insulin are breaking her bank. The American Medical Association recently released results of a study that found insulin costs have tripled in the last 15 years. For Boettcher, they have gone up more, because of her high insurance deductible. She said she only used to pay $30 for insulin monthly. Now, she is paying close to $300 per insulin vial. A 90 day supply of vials for Boettcher recently cost her close to $2,300. 

"It's outrageous," she said. 

The drug she said is keeping her alive is called Novolog, made by Novo Nordisk, Inc. FOX Carolina reached out to the company about the rise in their costs. A spokesperson cited a difficult healthcare market, growing manufacturing costs and high deductibles with insurance companies. The company's website  explains more about Novo Nordisk's pricing strategies. The company's position is that "Ensuring access and affordability is a responsibility we share with all involved in healthcare and we are going to do our part."

"I agree [higher production costs] are going to raise [the price] a little bit, but to raise it from $11 to $250 a vial? No, sir," said Boettcher. 

Doctors said people on a higher deductible plan, like Boettcher, may have to pay more for medicines. Dr. Jason Blazenak in Greenville cited the Affordable Care Act as a reason for the rise in drug costs generally. The insured pay less for coverage, but more for prescriptions. 

"The more medical issues that you have - it's probably better to be on a lower deductible plan," said Blazenak at private practice Emergency M.D.

Boettcher said her plan does have a high deductible, but it should not put her at risk of not being able to get her life-saving medication. 

"I'd like to see a vial of insulin be no more than 25 to 30 dollars a vial. Am I pipe-dreaming? I don't think so," said Boettcher, who has written to lawmakers and President Trump about the issue. 

More than 185,000 people have signed a petition by the American Diabetes Association calling for more transparency among drug companies and more affordable insulin. 

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