ST. PAUL (WCCO) — On the steps of the Capitol is not where Nicole Smith Holt imagined she’d be a year ago. She envisioned being with her son Alec on the eve of Mother’s Day.
“He was always so thoughtful and loving,” she said. Alec was diagnosed with diabetes at 24 years old. By age 26, he was no longer under his parent’s insurance. Nicole says he couldn’t afford the rising insulin prices and tried his best to ration his medication.
“He died from diabetic ketoacidosis. So he lasted 27 days not being covered [by insurance],” she said.
His story is one of many that inspired other patients, doctors, and supporters to demand a drop in insulin prices. The Right Care Alliance hosted the Mother’s Day Rally for Affordable Insulin.
“In the 1990s people were paying $25 for the same vial of insulin that’s being sold on the market today, so there’s been no advancement, no formulary changes and the list price today is over $275,” said Nicole.
Rallying with them was Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She said there are several bipartisan bills to make insulin more affordable but they aren’t getting hearings in Washington.
She also says President Donald Trump’s ideas to lower prices, which he outlined in his American Patients First proposal, aren’t enough.
“He didn’t propose making it easier to get generics on the market like I would do more aggressively. He didn’t propose bringing in less expensive drugs from other countries like Canada,” she said. “People have to stand up. They did it on the EpiPen [epinephrine], it became and outcry that the EpiPen had gone up 100 percent [in price] and people listened and they brought that price down.”
But until any of those ideas come to fruition, Nicole hopes people struggling pay for their life-saving medicine ask for help before it’s too late, just like her son.
“I would have rather gone into debt keeping him alive than go into debt burying him. I think that if more families knew what was happening with their loved ones, they would step forward and help,” Nicole said.
President Trump’s American Patients First plan includes speeding up the approval process for over the counter meds, and forcing pharmaceutical companies to be more transparent about their prices among several other initiatives.