My name is Sa’ra Skipper, and I am a diabetes patient and advocate. I have lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of 5.
My entire life with this disease has been a roller coaster. I was diagnosed at such a young age that I don’t really know what it meant to live with diabetes. My parents were just as confused as I was –– we couldn’t believe it was happening to me.
Things took a turn for the worse when my parents divorced. My mom had to leave her job to take care of me and my younger sister, who was also diagnosed with diabetes at a young age. And my father was 10 hours away in Virginia. My church, extended family, and members of our community were instrumental in our survival. At times I felt like a burden because I was taking so much from everyone in my life. Even now, I find it so frustrating that I work a full-time job and am still not able to have what I need to live. But even with insurance, a 30-day supply of my insulin runs me $1,000+. It’s a cost I simply can’t cover on my own.
Being in college and away from my mom, managing my diabetes on my own was such a challenge. My sister and I began to share insulin in order to cut costs. I began to eat less to make my insulin last longer. Coupled with the stress of class, it was a struggle all around. But once I entered the workforce, it didn’t get any easier. Working was hard because often my supervisors didn’t understand my health needs and I had to keep fighting and advocating for myself.
In May 2018, while still sharing insulin with my younger sister, she rationed a dose and went into diabetic ketoacidosis. She almost went into a diabetic coma and had to be hospitalized for four days. Things turned bad so fast. To see my sister fighting for her life made me feel like it was all my fault. To know people at Eli Lilly who control prices were headquartered less than 20 minutes away from us, as we sat by her hospital bed, enraged me. I almost lost my baby sister.
When we ask Eli Lilly to lower prices, they come back at us with scare tactics — claiming prices have to stay high to help fuel innovation for better treatments for diabetes medications. But the insulin that both me and my sister rely on only costs around $5. In turn, Eli Lilly charges nearly $300 a vial — a price that has increased more than 1,200% since the late 1990s. And our insulin? It is exactly the same. But Eli Lilly’s CEO, David Ricks, keeps raking in profits. In 2020, he received a paycheck of nearly $24 million after the company exceeded its revenue targets. Pharma is making an outrageous profit margin because we need this drug to stay alive. There is plenty of room to cut prices and still have plenty of money left for research and development of better medications we need.
As a diabetic, you have to fight so hard physically and mentally just to survive. My parents live with the constant fear of losing a child. There shouldn’t be a price tag on my life. I shouldn’t have to decide if I’m going to pay for living expenses or pay for insulin. Insulin was created with the intent for it to be accessible to everyone who needs it. No matter how long it takes we will keep building our numbers and demanding change –– because our lives depend on it.