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Mother whose son died rationing insulin questions high price of diabetes drug

For one man, his birthday became a death sentence when he aged out of his parents' health insurance and could no longer afford the insulin that was keeping him alive. (Source: For one man, his birthday became a death sentence when he aged out of his parents' health insurance and could no longer afford the insulin that was keeping him alive. (Source:

(RNN) - He lived only 27 days after he aged out of his parents' health insurance coverage.

Alec Smith's 26th birthday became a death sentence last year, as he could no longer afford to buy the insulin he needed to live, Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. An autopsy determined he died from diabetic ketoacidosis caused by a critical shortage of insulin. 

His mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, said his next payday was only days away.

“It’s not affordable. You’re price-gouging people who need this one product to live, to survive,” she said.

He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 23, which ruined his plans to become a paramedic, his mother said.

Smith's insulin refills cost $1,300, something he couldn't afford as a restaurant manager. The most affordable health plan he could find had a deductible that still prevented him from affording his medication, so he went without, rationing his insulin.

She led a protest at the headquarters of Eli Lilly, a major insulin manufacturer, in St. Paul, MN, as well as a rally Saturday at the Minnesota state capitol. 

Between 2002 and 2013, the price of insulin per milliliter rose by 197 percent, from $4.34 per milliliter to $12.92 per milliliter, according to a 2016 study

Eli Lilly and Co. told the Star-Tribune that even though the list price for the drug has gone up, the company is receiving less money from sales of the drug since 2009 because of rebates.

Unlike most countries, the U.S. doesn't limit what drug companies can charge for medicine.

President Donald Trump unveiled his plan Friday to battle high prescription drug prices in the U.S., which includes speeding up the approval process for over-the-counter medications and a requirement for drugmakers to disclose the cost of their products in TV ads.

The plan didn't include his campaign promise to allow Medicare, the largest buyer of drugs, to negotiate with drug companies directly, the Associated Press reported.

However, in response to Smith's death, a lawmaker on the state level took action, naming a bill in his honor to provide emergency insulin for those in need. The bill was referred to committee and will not get a vote in this legislative session, Star-Tribune said.

About 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, about 5 percent of diabetics, and usually children and young adults are diagnosed with the disease, the American Diabetes Association said. 

In 2015, 30.3 million Americans - 9.4 percent of the population - had diabetes, and it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S.

If you can't afford your medicine

There is some help available for those who can't afford their medication. 

Among the tips that the state of New Hampshire suggests:

Copyright 2018 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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