Who Will Be Responsible for the Dialysis Bill? A Case Report and Narrative Review of Insulin Affordability 100 Years After the Discovery of Insulin

Alheli Arce Gastelum, Sima Maraqa, Walter Ariel Marquez Lavenant, Ammara Khan, Robert S. McMahon, Azka Latif, Theresa A. Townley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

A 46-year-old woman was type 1 diabetes diagnosed at the age of 9 who had previously been on an insulin pump. Other co-morbidities included CKD IV, HTN, and hypothyroidism. She presented with hyperglycemia of 400 mg/dl and fluid retention. Her GFR had decreased to 13. Her physical exam was notable for respiratory distress and anasarca. She failed to respond to aggressive IV diuresis and urgent hemodialysis was initiated. The patient had been lost to outpatient follow-up for a year. She had been co-managed by an endocrinologist and a primary care physician but had stopped going to her endocrinologist over a year ago due to inability to afford the co-pays. She subsequently lost her insurance and had to pay out of pocket for her insulin; at this point, she decided to stop seeing her PCP and began to ration her insulin. Due to social stigma, she did not mention her financial issues to her healthcare providers. After identifying these challenges, we decided to start her on a more affordable regimen of NPH insulin. Through social work assistance, we were able to obtain a charity hemodialysis chair and discharge her home. She applied to Medicaid. Healthcare expenditure with regard to diabetes rose to $327 billion from $245 billion in 2012. The price of insulin has continued to increase even after the drug’s patent has expired due to the combination of FDA requirements, a monopoly in the insulin market, and the lack of federal price controls and Pharmacy Benefits Managers. The high out of pocket costs for insulin has led to many instances of insulin rationing among both uninsured and insured. This led to death in some cases as well as poorly controlled diabetes with increased complications and mortality as in our case. We present a case report and narrative review on insulin affordability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Internal Medicine

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