Guest blog: Diabetes charity’s survey examines cost of worldwide supplies

Given the technological developments within diabetes research, it’s hard to fathom how anyone living with diabetes should go into debt or die an early death because of the outrageous prices for insulin and supplies.

T1International, a diabetes charity, launched a worldwide survey in March of 2016 to explore the costs that people pay out of pocket for things like insulin, test strips, and other diabetes costs. We have now received over 200 responses from more than 40 countries. What we found confirmed our concerns about the unaffordability of insulin and diabetes supplies worldwide, and some of the survey data that was gathered is quite alarming.

The cost of insulin in America is particularly staggering: one vial of Humalog insulin costs $435, but it costs nothing for people with diabetes in the UK who require insulin.

One respondent from the USA put it this way:  ‘‘I would compromise my care if I skimped on supplies as it’s impossible to have good control without regular sugar checks…I’ve joked with family that it’d be cheaper for me to die.’’

The survey asked respondents to share the type of insulin they take, how they take it, and how much they must pay for it. We also asked people what type of test strips they use and their cost, and explored other costs associated with their diabetes management. We looked at whether people use ketone strips and the glucagon injection, which are life-saving when blood sugars are too high or too low, and found that many do not use them because of affordability issues.

The information that was shared with us quantifies the global struggles that people with diabetes are facing. The sad reality is that diabetes is an exorbitant financial burden for many people.

When analysing the data, we compared monthly out-of-pocket costs for diabetes with average monthly wages in each country. We found that globally, people must pay anything from 0% of monthly income to 118% of their monthly income for costs associated with diabetes. Just to be clear, this means that some people are forced to find a way to pay MORE than what they earn each month, just to stay alive.

You can explore our first round of data reporting through these interactive charts and graphs:

What our survey has highlighted is that pricing and payment for things like insulin, test strips, and other diabetes life-savers is a mess. There is no rhyme or reason as to why some people pay extremely high prices, while others do not. But it is clear that many are suffering not only from the stress of not being able to afford their treatment, but from diabetes complications that could be easily avoided with the right treatment.

Let’s use our collective outrage to continue to push for #insulin4all.

Picture: stephanywrites.com

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About the author

Elizabeth Rowley

Elizabeth Rowley is the Founder and Director of T1International. She was born in the United States and has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 20 years. Elizabeth moved to London in 2011 to complete her Master’s degree in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It was during her course of study that she began to address the fact that many people with type 1 diabetes are fighting for their lives daily due to lack of supplies, care, treatment, and education. Elizabeth is confident that by working together we can find creative and sustainable solutions to the complex problems faced by people with diabetes. Elizabeth is a guest blogger.

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