In June, 27-year-old Josh Wilkerson died due to complications after switching to cheaper human insulin (humulin) to save money for his upcoming wedding. Wilkerson is just one of the several cases recently of people losing their lives due to the cost of diabetes medications.
Wilkerson made the switch back to an older version of insulin. So what’s the difference between “old” and “new” insulin?
Humulin vs. analog insulin
The insulin types differ by how quickly they are absorbed, how long they last, and when they peak. The newer analog insulin is absorbed more quickly and costs much more than the older kind. The older kind is called humulin or regular insulin. It’s a synthetic insulin that costs less but doesn’t work as quickly. Newer insulin starts working within 20 minutes and lasts around 4 hours, while the older kind is meant to be taken at mealtime and takes 30 minutes to 4 hours to start working.
Blood glucose fluctuations
In addition to which type of insulin you take, blood glucose levels can vary based on many factors, including eating, stress, exercise, illness, and the time and place of insulin injection. Due to these fluctuations, it’s harder to manage levels with human insulin, as its effect is slower and less predictable.
When changing types of insulin, you should always be under medical supervision. If you do switch to human insulin, be sure the check you blood sugar levels every three hours and take your insulin at least a half-hour before eating.
In the meantime, something must be done about the soaring cost of insulin. The state of Colorado already enacted a $100 cap on insulin copays, and federal legislation is in the works.
How people with diabetes are dealing with high costs
A new study found that 13 percent of people with diabetes are not taking their medications because of skyrocketing costs. Other ways people are foregoing their basic needs are:
- Rationing insulin
- Reusing needles and diabetes tools
- Not testing blood sugar as often as needed
- Trading medications and supplies outside the system
- Purchasing supplies online on eBay or Craigslist
- Traveling to Canada or Mexico to get insulin and other medications
These practices bring up huge safety issues. Not taking insulin can lead to diabetic coma, seizures, and death. In addition, it is not known whether the medications people are purchasing are expired or the supplies are working properly. People are also rationing what they eat and are unable to eat the healthy foods they need to remain strong.