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Mother protests high insulin prices by bringing son’s ashes to drug maker’s office

Last year Nicole Smith-Holt’s son died after rationing his insulin because it was so expensive. This month she traveled to the office of insulin-maker Sanofi in Cambridge, Mass., with his ashes.

“It’s a visual reminder for them of what’s at stake,” Smith-Holt told Stat News.

Many people with diabetes share the terrible dilemma. As insulin prices have swelled in the U.S., wonder how they’ll pay for a life-saving drug that is quickly becoming more expensive than they can afford.

With health insurance, Smith-Holt’s son paid between $200 and $300 a month for insulin and the supplies he needed for his type 1 diabetes. Without health insurance, he faced out-of-pocket costs of about $1,300 a month and couldn’t afford it.

Also read: WHY DOES THE U.S. SPEND MORE FOR HEALTH CARE THAN OTHER WEALTHY COUNTRIES? SIMPLE ANSWER: OUR PRICES ARE HIGHER

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 found that the price of a milliliter of insulin rose 197 percent from 2002 to 2013. Another analysis published this September reported that drug companies would still make a healthy profit, even if insulin prices were much lower.

“We want to know how much it costs to manufacture insulin, what their profits are on a vial of insulin, how much they spend on advertising and marketing,” Smith-Holt told Stat News.

This year Oregon adopted a “transparency law” aimed at combating rising prescription drug prices. When the price of a prescription drug increases more than 10 percent, the manufacturer is required to report what’s behind the increase to the Oregon Department of Consumer Business Services.

Have you had to ration a drug because of high costs? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.