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Iowa senator’s comments on diabetes miss the mark | Editorial

A Des Moines Register editorial recently reported on two Washington lawmakers, a Democrat and a Republican, who each have children with Type 1 diabetes. They are calling on the health industry to explain why insulin is so expensive.

The price of insulin has tripled in recent years, even for older forms of the drug. Once costing $21 a vial two decades ago has increased to $255. The retail price for many is frequently about $300 per vial, and diabetics commonly use two to six vials per month.

Iowa Sen. Thomas Greene, R-Burlington, used the Register’s Facebook page to comment on the editorial. He wrote that most people can control the onset of diabetes “with proper diet, exercise and weight control. If that fails, then generic medications are next. Personal responsibility is the 1st step.”

It is true some people can make lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. But sometimes they still need insulin. (Generic forms are not available). And the editorial focused on Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease. Many Type 1 diabetics are diagnosed as children. Their own immune systems mistakenly destroy cells that produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert food to energy.

There is no way to prevent the disease. There is no way to cure it. Injecting insulin, frequently several times a day, is the only way to stay alive. The 20,000 young Americans diagnosed with it each year know this.

Researchers at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, have found a way to protect beta cells from destruction, which could lead to therapies to prevent type 1 diabetes. David Serreze, a professor at JAX Laboratories, said in a press release, “Our approach targets an appropriate population of the B cells among the white blood cells, resulting in inactivation of the cascade of autoimmunity against the insulin-producing…

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