My name is Sarah Duhart Clarke, and I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease. Diabetes is an incredibly expensive diagnosis. When I was first diagnosed, I was still a teenager and remained on my parents’ insurance. The cost of medicine and supplies created a big financial strain on my family.
When I turned 18, I was no longer able to be on my parents’ insurance. It took me two years to get on government insurance. I’m still shocked I survived those years without insurance. While uninsured, I couldn’t afford to pay the astronomical list prices of the insulin I was prescribed.
During that time I was surviving by buying Walmart’s over-the-counter, outdated version of insulin and rationing doses to make it last as long as possible. Although this insulin is much cheaper than prescription insulin like the Novolog and Tresiba I now use, it’s also a much less effective form of insulin. Further, even with the lower cost insulin, I still often had to choose between buying my diabetic supplies or buying other basic necessities, including healthy food. My blood sugar was very uncontrolled and I often experienced dangerous highs and lows.
After two years, I eventually got on government insurance while in college. After I graduated, I moved to North Carolina and became insured through my employer. I was always told that once you have a good job and insurance, drug and other health care costs become affordable. Unfortunately, I learned that’s not the case.
Although I’m fortunate now to have health insurance, my diabetes drugs and supplies are still a massive financial burden. Between the high and constantly increasing prices of insulin and the cost of other necessary supplies, I spend between $400 and $600 every month just to keep my diabetes under control.
Because of these high monthly costs, I’m unable to afford an insulin pump, the best treatment method suggested by my doctor. Instead, I rely on multiple daily injections. Even with this suboptimal treatment, I still have to plan my budget around my monthly drug costs. Over the past decade, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars simply to keep myself alive.
I often think about what I could’ve done if I weren’t spending hundreds of dollars every month on my drugs and supplies. Could I have gone to college without having to work three jobs? Could I have bought a house by now? The financial security I could have would drastically change my life.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I advocate for lower drug prices because I know our elected officials have the power to bring down drug prices. We need leaders that will work for lower drug prices, so patients like me can afford the most effective treatments our doctors prescribe.