LEESBURG, Va. — After aging out of his stepdad's health insurance plan, Josh Wilkerson began looking for solutions to help reduce the cost of the nearly $1,200 a month he was paying for the insulin he had to take to stay alive.
He switched to a cheaper over-the-counter version.
“We figured: Hey, it’s $25. We can do that. And we’ll just work with it and try to do the best we can,” his fiancée, Rose Walters, told the Washington Post.
But Walters says as soon as Wilkerson began taking the cheaper insulin, he started having problems. Just months before their wedding, she found him unconscious. Days later, he died.
The Post says doctors later determined Wilkerson, who was a Type 1 diabetic, suffered a series of strokes shortly after taking a dose of the lower-grade insulin. He was only 27.
According to the Post, prescription brands of insulin only need 20 minutes to metabolize, but generic versions "can take up to four hours to metabolize and regulate blood sugar levels." Generics also do not have definitive success rates.
Now, his fiancée wants more people to have better access to the medications they need.
“How many more young Type 1 diabetes patients have to die before something finally changes?” fiancée Rose Walters asked in an article in The Post.
According to BBC News, the discoverers of insulin sold the patent for $1 in 1923 and hoped the low price would ensure the treatment was available to anyone who needed it. Now, U.S. insulin retail prices are hovering around $300 from the major brands.
"Even accounting for inflation, that's a price increase of over 1,000 percent," BBC News reporter Ritu Prasad wrote in a March 14 explanation of the rising costs.
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers is trying to pass legislation to reduce insulin prices for the 7.5 million Americans who need it, The Post reports.
As our Denver sister-station KUSA explained in May, some states have been trying to lower costs on their own. In fact, Colorado capped insulin co-pays at $100 for people with insurance.
Florida does not currently cap insulin co-pays, though there is a change.org petition with more than 82,500 signatures asking Florida lawmakers to act.
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