Posted: Nov 27, 2016 08:38 AM CST
Updated: Dec 15, 2016 05:54 AM CST
Jack Christensen has a snack of some wafer cookies and apple slices at his home in Waunakee, Wis., after school on Oct. 5, 2016. His mother, Jess Franz-Christensen, logs his carbohydrate intake.
Two bottles of insulin are seen at the home of Jack Christensen. Humalog, left, costs about $400 a bottle and Novolog, right, costs about $300 a bottle, his parents said. Jack uses three to four bottles of insulin a month. Without insurance, the family estimates they would have to pay between $15,000 to $30,000 a year for insulin.
The Christensen family of Waunakee, Wis., stores Jack’s insulin supplies in the refrigerator, where they share a drawer with cheese. The insulin alone costs $1,200 a month, the family says.
Jack Christensen is photographed with his mother, Jess Franz-Christensen, at their home in Waunakee, Wis., on Oct. 5, 2016. Franz-Christensen says she spend a lot of time helping Jack manage his Type 1 diabetes.
Jess Franz-Christensen shows her son Jack Christensen’s continuous glucose monitor, which tracks his blood sugar level 24 hours a day. Jack was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 4, and requires copious amounts of medical supplies, including an insulin pump, insulin and related monitoring and testing equipment.
EpiPens are self-injectable devices that contain epinephrine. The auto-injectors counteract potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. EpiPens, which come in packs of two, have risen sharply in price and now retail for about $600.
Jack Miller, 10, holds a two-pack of his EpiPen prescription. He has a severe tree nut allergy, and has to keep an EpiPen with him at home, school and in the car at all times. His brother also has severe allergies. His family spends thousands each year to keep multiple packs of EpiPens on hand.
Doxycycline is an antibiotic used to treat many different bacterial infections, including acne, urinary tract infections, intestinal infections, eye infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia and gum disease. The cost of doxycycline, which has been approved for use since 1967, is nearly 30 times higher than it was in 2011.
Levothyroxine, a generic drug used to treat hypothyroidism, has risen dramatically in price in recent years. The cost of levothyroxine is now 231 percent higher than in 2011.
Harvoni, a newly developed drug, is considered the most effective treatment for hepatitis C, an infection that can lead to liver cancer and liver failure. The drug, which costs $94,500 for a full course of treatment, is one reason overall spending on prescription drugs is rising in the United States.
Dr. Marcus Cohen, an allergist-immunologist in Madison, Wis., says patients at a free clinic where he volunteers often cannot afford their prescriptions. He says he was shocked to discover EpiPens cost the uninsured $600 for a two-pack. He calls the price “ridiculous” since the main ingredient, epinephrine, “has been around forever.” Cohen was photographed on Sept. 20, 2016.
Mel Weinswig, professor emeritus and former dean of University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, says, “You have drugs that used to be pennies that are now selling for a dollar a capsule.” He was photographed at the pharmacy school on Sept. 21, 2016.
Steve Rough, director of pharmacy and clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, says prescription drug price increases cost the health care organization $14 million in the past year. Rough was photographed in his office on Sep. 21, 2016.
Dr. Tim Bartholow, vice president and chief medical officer of WEA Trust, says the nonprofit insurance company serving Wisconsin public employees has seen prices of individual drugs increase by up to 800 percent since early 2013. “The sad part of the … price increases is that I’m not aware of any improvements to the products, just ever increasing prices.” He was photographed outside his office building in Madison, Wis., Sept. 22, 2016.
University of Wisconsin pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Ellen Connor says some of her diabetes patients cannot afford life-saving insulin. “The people are captive; they just have to pay what the cost is because they need them (medications) to live.”