A while back I was accused of ripping off the NHS. I also got it in the neck for involving my youngest daughter in the ‘technically illegal’ act of sending insulin my doctor had advised me to stop taking to a stranger who needed it in the US.
There were other criticisms: because the US ‘foams at the mouth’ at the thought of social healthcare, I should have sent it somewhere more deserving, apparently. With Brexit looming, I should be stockpiling my insulin, not giving it away. Blah blah blah…
Why I’m not sorry for sending insulin to a stranger in the US (again)
I thought about all this long and hard. I love the NHS almost as much as my kids, so didn’t take the charges levelled at me lightly. Then I took the only reasonable course of action: me and my little accomplice sent another shipment of insulin to someone whose life depended on it in the US.
And I’m not sorry. Here’s what the critics have to say about this, why they’re wrong and why, if you’re a type 1 diabetic with unneeded insulin approaching its use-by date at home, you should consider sending it abroad as well…
“I have major concerns with creating a black market of insulin funded by UK taxpayers…”
There’s so much going on in the tweet below – I’ve created a black market and ripped off the NHS by not using all my insulin before switching, it won’t fix anything, etc… I’ll tackle each assertion in turn.
I have major concerns w creating a black market in insulin-funded by UK taxpayers. The insulin your fellow citizens & you pay 4 thru taxes should be used up b4 you change prescriptions. Price gouging in the US is disgusting but ripping of your own country’s system won’t fix it. https://t.co/baG5HK76BJ
— Once Diabetes (@MelindaSeedT1D) 8 February 2019
This person is right about one thing. The insulin I sent to the US was funded by UK taxpayers. But any black market that exists in the States was created by the country’s broken healthcare system, which has allowed the price of insulin to triple in a decade; not actions like mine.
“Had I returned my insulin after being advised to stop taking it, it would’ve been destroyed”
Had I returned my insulin after being advised to stop taking it, it would have been destroyed. Rules state unused meds cannot be passed on. Half the world’s type 1 diabetics live without access to insulin, including growing numbers in the US because of soaring prices there. It would be a scandal to let my insulin be destroyed, when people elsewhere are dying because they can’t get hold of it.
“Some of us are looking to buy from Canada for cheaper prices…”
“The insulin your fellow citizens and you pay for through taxes should be used before you change prescriptions…”
This is bullshit. I wasn’t prescribed a new kind of insulin on a whim. I was struggling to control my blood sugar on two daily shots of Levemir and Novorapid jabs every time I ate. I’d get spikes at meal times followed by rebound lows. On long run days, only being able to adjust my Levemir twice a day meant choosing between massive highs before I started running or constant hypos as I ran.
“Telling a type 1 to use up old insulin before switching meds is like denying an HIV sufferer more effective retrovirals because they haven’t used all their old ones…”
My new insulin regime – Fiasp delivered through the Omnipod pump system – has changed my life. It’s probably prolonging it too. High blood sugar levels can cause nerve and kidney damage, heart disease, blindness and early death. Low blood sugar levels can kill. I’ve had fewer of both on the new regime. Telling a type 1 to use up old insulin before switching meds is like denying an HIV sufferer more effective retrovirals because they haven’t used all their old ones.
“Price gouging in the US is disgusting but ripping of your own country’s system won’t fix it”
We agree on one thing: what’s gone on in the US is disgusting. That’s why I ran the MdS for the charity T1International in April (why not donate here?). But I am not ripping off the NHS. In fact, I’m saving it money. Had I returned my unused insulin, as rules say I should, the NHS would have had to pay to dispose of it. So I sent it to someone who was being failed by their government. That seems the only reasonable course of action to me.
“There are legitimate organisations who do collect insulin and supplies for people who can’t afford it…”
However, the irony is that there are legit organizations who do collect unwanted insulin & supplies for people who can’t afford it.
— BloodSugarTrampoline (@BSugrTrampoline) February 9, 2019
This is correct. I would have preferred to have donated my meds to Insulin For Life or one of the other charities that allows insulin that’s not needed in developed countries to be distributed to people in need elsewhere. As I wrote in my original post, I contacted Insulin For Life but to no avail. It’s also worth noting that these charities will not accept insulin which is within six months of its use-by date. Mine was.
“It’s one thing to help the third world and another to provide aid to a country that foams at the mouth at the thought of socialised healthcare…”
Yes there are. I think so long as the meds are not going to be used it’s morally acceptable. Also it’s one thing to help the 3rd world another 2 provide aid to a country that foams at the mouth at the mention of socialised healthcare.
— Once Diabetes (@MelindaSeedT1D) February 9, 2019
This is where things get dark. The same person who says I’m creating a black market in the US and ripping off the NHS now suggests Americans deserve insulin less than people in the ‘third world’ because the crackpots in the White House oppose social healthcare. I’m not normally one for discussing politics on Twitter (apparently it’s full of bigots who feel empowered online because no one in the real world will give them the time of day), but I couldn’t resist. See below.
Figurative language mate. It is, however, exceedingly rare for any1 in the US discussions or advocacy groups re insulin accessibility to admit that socialised healthcare is desirable. They are scared of taxes and big government.
— Once Diabetes (@MelindaSeedT1D) February 9, 2019
Figurative language! That’s okay then. Let’s be clear: none of us can live without insulin. It plays a crucial role in helping the body convert food into energy. Without it, our cells cannot absorb glucose in our blood. It fills with glucose and substances known as ketones as our bodies go into starvation mode and burn fat as an alternative source of energy. This turns our blood acidic. Our organs fail. We die. Where we live doesn’t come into it.
“It’s a weird time to do that, especially with all the Brexit stuff looming…”
I understand the thinking, but I hate to say its a weird time to do that, especially with all the Brexit stuff looming
— sean (@howardthedolph1) February 8, 2019
Brexit scares the shit out of me. And not just because of the warnings Brexit will cause chaos at the ports and lead to shortages of lifesaving medications such as insulin (I usually have a few months’ supply in my fridge, anyhow). What really scares me is that the mean spirit of Brexit is spreading; that it’s being used as an excuse to leave people in need. At times like this we need more compassion, not less.
That’s why, if you’re a type 1 diabetic with unneeded insulin approaching its use-by date at home, you should consider sending it abroad as well. Let me know if I can help.