Mother’s Day rally highlights need for affordable insulin

Nicole Smith-Holt teared up as she spoke about her son to a small crowd on the Capitol steps Saturday in St. Paul.

“Tomorrow is my first Mother’s Day without Alec,” she said. “I will never get to see him fall in love, marry the woman of his dreams and raise a family.”

Alec Raeshawn Smith, 26, of Minneapolis died June 27, 2017, from diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition that can be prevented with medication. Smith had been rationing his insulin because he could not afford the drug’s monthly cost of $1,300, his mother said.

Smith-Holt and her family were part of a nationwide rally for affordable insulin. Similar groups, organized by Right Care Alliance, gathered in Boston, Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., to talk about diabetic loved ones who perished because they could not afford insulin, a drug that regulates blood sugar. About 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Minnesota Rep. Laurie Halverson, D-Eagan, spoke at the rally, criticizing President Trump’s Friday speech in which he promised to “bring soaring drug prices back down to earth” by promoting competition between pharmaceutical companies.

“I don’t think that that plan is going to get us where we need to go,” Klobuchar said. “As we know, after the president finished his speech, the pharmaceutical stock prices didn’t go down, they went up because they were relieved that he hadn’t proposed some of the things that I’m talking about.”

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She said the president’s plan should include Medicare Part D negotiation for seniors, support for making it easier for generic drugs to be sold and competition from other countries.

Over the last 20 years, the price of insulin has increased by 1,200 percent, Klobuchar said.

These increases have forced diabetics to seek other methods to obtain insulin.

“If you do a search on the GoFundMe page, you will find thousands of people trying to raise money for insulin,” said Dr. Vikas Saini, a cardiologist from Boston and the co-chair of the Right Care Alliance.

Halverson, a diabetic, urged the crowd to contact their representatives in Washington and St. Paul and urge them to address the problem.

“The fact that Big Pharma wants to make money off of our suffering adds insult to injury,” she said.

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