Ismaeel Yunusa, University of South Carolina
Insulin is as essential as water for many people with diabetes. Of the more than 30 million Americans with diabetes, approximately 7.4 million rely on insulin to manage their condition. But it is one of the most costly drugs on the market, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the already rampant problem of insulin hoarding or rationing.
Not only is diabetes associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection, but COVID-19 is also associated with both an increase in new diabetes diagnoses and a worsening of preexisting diabetes complications. By September 2021, death rates for people with diabetes were 50% higher than before the pandemic, a net increase of more than twice the overall death rate of the general population.
I am a pharmacist who studies ways to improve clinical, economic and quality-of-life outcomes in vulnerable populations. My recent study on how insulin prescription rates have changed because of the pandemic underscores the challenges that people with diabetes face in accessing care.
Diabetes affects how the body converts food into energy. Usually when someone eats, the body breaks down the food into sugar that enters the bloodstream. The pancreas releases insulin that helps the sugar enter cells so it can be used as energy.