Diabetes is a major epidemic, affecting 29 million people in the United States. Unfortunately, for many diabetics, an added burden in dealing with diabetes is the price of potential life-saving medications like insulin.
“These drugs are important and they are life saving and we need to ensure we have access,” said Mona Chitre, vice president of pharmacy management at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rochester. “It is a real challenge, and it is a burden for our families and our patients with diabetes.”
According to 13 WHAM, insulin’s cost has skyrocketed 43% since 2013, forcing many poor individuals with diabetes to seek alternatives that are more affordable.
“We are feeling it locally, regionally, and nationally,” added Chitre. “The price increases are an issue.”
Additionally, WXXI News says, Rochester’s poorer communities as well as the refugee population, especially those who don’t speak English, are at even more of a risk of diabetic problems because of both the language gap and the increased prices.
Sara Laza, a 69-year-old diabetic who has suffered two heart attacks and a cardiac arrest episode at the age of 63, moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico 20 years ago. Laza isn’t fluent in English, but thanks to Rochester medical professionals, she now has a better understanding of the type of medication she needs.
“Sometimes the doctor changes my medicine and I don’t know how to use it,” said Laza. “They explain, they call me and they say do like this and like that…in Spanish.”
Every single Monday, Laza has to sit down and organize her upcoming week’s pills. She’s able to do this on her own thanks to local pharmacy, the Saratoga Pharmacy on Lyell Ave.
“We wanted somebody here who speaks the native language, so I started hiring people,” said Usha Ramadugu, the third owner of Saratoga Pharmacy, which has been in operation since the 1920s. “We have all multicultural employees who speak Nepali, we have Somali, [and] we have Burmese.”
Unfortunately, diabetic medication prices are projected to increase another 18% by 2018. Sarah Miner, a Rochester nurse, is nervous for the poorer individuals, especially the immigrants, but remains hopeful for the future.
“I feel passionately about the fact that we have to have an efficient and safe delivery of healthcare for all people in this country,” said Miner.