MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In an unprecedented move, Walmart is rolling out its own private label of insulin this week. Walmart says the price will be 75% below competing products.

A vial will cost about $73, when it can cost more than $300 elsewhere. But a Richfield mother, who knows about the subject intimately, still has some concerns.

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Alec Smith, who had Type 1 diabetes, died four years ago this week; he was 26 years old.

“What do I miss the most about Alec? His kind heart. He had such a passion for life, he was a goofy or silly or fun guy, what I miss the most is his hugs. He just had a way of making you feel safe and loved,” said Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec’s mother.

Alec Smith, who had aged off the family insurance was rationing his $1,300-month insulin, because it was so expensive. It caused his untimely death.

“People are still rationing, people are still dying, people are still suffering because they can’t afford insulin,” Smith-Holt, who helped pass an emergency insulin law said.

She says her feelings about Walmart’s new lower-cost private label insulin are complicated.

“On one hand I see that it’s going to benefit some people, on the other hand, I see that it’s creating additional problems,” she said. “It seems like this could be a good start, it doesn’t go far enough, it doesn’t help enough people, it’s still overly priced.”

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Hennepin Healthcare Diabetes Pharmacist Laura Traynor knows the struggle well.

“We see all the time patients not taking their medications or rationing their medications because they can’t afford them,” Traynor said.

She agrees that the big announcement is complex.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction but it’s not gonna solve anything. There’s lots of different types of insulins so it may not be a good fit for everybody but it’s a good option in our wheelhouse when we have patients having trouble affording insulin,” she said.

It’s a step on a long road that Alec’s mother will keep walking.

“My hope at the end of the day is that we finally achieve a place where not a single person who relies on insulin to stay alive has to struggle or sacrifice to afford their insulin,” she said.

The state program passed in Minnesota means eligible patients can get an emergency supply of insulin for $35, and some patients can continue to get insulin for a year.

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For more information on Minnesota’s Insulin Safety Net Program, click here.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield