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Report: Expensive insulin creating hardships across America

Angela Civiletti
James Brown WXXI
Angela Civiletti

A report from the congressional Oversight and Reform committee on drug prices shows there has been a tenfold increase in insulin prices over the last two decades.

That affects many diabetics, such as Angela Civiletti, a 27-year-old legal assistant from Rochester.

Civiletti said she spends between $900 and $1,500 a month on insulin to treat her Type 1 diabetes. She said she’s thankful when her friends and family travel because they’ve helped her save money on the drug.

“Some of them have taken trips up to Canada, like on family vacations, or even down in Mexico, and they text everybody that they know with diabetes and are like, ‘Hey, give me a few hundred dollars and I’ll grab insulin when I’m down there,’ ” said Civiletti.

Civiletti said the prices in the U.S. are unreasonable.

“It really makes me angry because I don’t understand why a medication is going to be costing more than a mortgage payment, which is a basic need in life to have shelter,” said Civiletti. “So it doesn’t make any sort of sense to me.”

At Highland Family Medicine on Monday, Democratic Congressman Joe Morelle called it gouging.

“The monthly cost of a widely used insulin drug would be 74% lower at Australian prices, 70% lower in the United Kingdom, and 52% lower in Canada,” said Morelle.

“When you talk to drug manufacturers, what they will say is: ‘We need to make X worldwide for the distribution of this drug, so after we’re done negotiating with all these governments, whatever is left over that we need to make, that’s what we’re going to make in the United States,’ ” he added.

Morelle said that other governments negotiate prices with drug companies, and he’s pushing for the U.S. to do the same. He also says that making more generic forms of insulin would also help the situation.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.