Armed With Hashtags, These Activists Made Insulin Prices a Presidential Talking Point

by | Feb 15, 2023 | Health

Hannah Crabtree got active on Twitter in 2016 to find more people like herself: those with Type 1 diabetes who’d hacked their insulin pumps to automatically adjust the amount of insulin delivered.

Soon, though, Crabtree found a more critical diabetes-related conversation happening on Twitter: rising insulin prices.

Crabtree’s mother, who also had diabetes, died in 2006 of complications from rationing expensive insulin. Most people naturally produce the hormone, which helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy. People with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce enough, so they need injectable insulin to stay alive.

But the medication has become increasingly expensive. One version rose in price from $21 to $255 per vial between 1996 and 2016, for example, and Crabtree had often wondered in the years after her mother died why more people weren’t talking about the issue. On Twitter, she found the people who were doing just that.

Crabtree, a 32-year-old accountant in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., became part of a small group of patient activists who have managed to turn U.S. insulin prices into a kitchen table issue in part through their use of Twitter.

Their activism helped make insulin prices a topic of the 2020 presidential election. And 22 states and Washington, D.C., have now passed caps on insurance copayments for insulin, in addition to a copay cap Congress passed last year for some Medicare pat …

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