My name is Iesha Meza, and I’m from Phoenix, Arizona. In 2012, at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At the time, I was married and living in North Carolina, but soon my circumstances changed –– I separated from and eventually divorced my spouse, moving back to Arizona, where I grew up.
Just like that, not only could I not afford my top-of-the-line insulin, I had to switch to an over-the-counter insulin, Novolin R (also known as “Walmart” insulin), that is less effective and costs $25 a vial. Even at that price, I was forced to ration my supply of a drug –– that is as vital to me as water –– to keep living. I stopped taking insulin when eating meals, and eventually stopped taking insulin altogether. I felt myself growing weaker and weaker by the day. I could actually feel myself slowly dying. I had my aunt take me to urgent care, where they sent me straight to the ER of a local hospital. At the hospital they told me I was in diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening and potentially deadly complication of my illness. I wasn’t scared at the time, but, looking back, I should have been. I could have died. I slipped into a diabetic coma just as my mother arrived to advocate for me.
Before that, my parents had no idea I was struggling financially. I didn’t want to bother them, to be honest. As an adult I felt ashamed that I couldn’t afford my insulin on top of paying my bills, and I also felt pride. I didn’t want to ask for help. I shouldn’t have to ask for help. Insulin should be affordable.
After this terrifying incident, my family helped me with medical expenses and helped me to get back on my feet. My mom took me to see my endocrinologist who suggested that if I couldn’t afford my medication and supplies, I should quit my job and rely on state medical assistance to afford my insulin. I was mortified that this was the best medical advice that they could give me. I immediately started looking for a new doctor and luckily found an amazing one who understood my current circumstance –– and the circumstances of so many patients like me who are living with diabetes.
I was able to get a better job with benefits and was finally able to afford my preferred insulin, Humalog, to keep on living. I know I’m fortunate in that instance. I know how fast things can change –– especially with drug prices. I’m well aware that Humalog costs almost $300 per vial.
I shouldn’t have to worry about affording my medication. I shouldn’t have to wonder what damage has been done to my body after surviving such a serious medical event. I’m like anyone else. I want a happy life: one where I can walk my two dogs in the park, go on beautiful hikes, be a mom to my many plants, and keep enjoying my visits to the botanical garden in Scottsdale. It isn’t too much to ask to afford the prescriptions that afford me health and happiness. We need lower drug prices now.