Iowa Lawmaker Posts Insensitive Remark About Insulin Pricing

An Iowa state senator has taken heat from some within the diabetes community for an online comment he made in reference to an editorial about the rising price of insulin.

On June 28th, The Des Moines Register posted an editorial entitled, “Being diabetic is becoming unaffordable.” The editorial gave an overview of the rising cost of insulin, laid out the life-or-death ramifications of insulin access for those who need it, and highlighted a rare bipartisan effort by a Democrat congresswoman and Republican congressman to investigate the complex and often opaque decision-making process that leads pharmaceutical companies to set the price of insulin. The newspaper posted the story on Facebook that evening.

State Senator Thomas A. Greene then posted this comment on the Facebook post: “Most patients diagnosed with diabetes can control their onset with proper diet, exercise, and weight control. If that fails, then generic medications are next. Personal responsibility is the 1st step.”

Two others then posted comments saying that Senator Greene was perhaps mixing up Type 2 diabetes with Type 1 diabetes, with one saying that people with Type 1 need insulin to survive. Greene then posted, “I’m a Pharmacist (sic), I know the facts. I practice in retail pharmacy. I see the patients everyday (sic).”

Read more: Congressman says your preexisting condition is probably your fault

This defense did not go over well with subsequent commentators:

“Curious to know how my three year old (sic) could have (shown) more personal responsibility.”
-Sharla Pillard Yeutsy

“Guess your thoughts are different than any other doctor I’ve ever seen…I guess my 7 year old (sic) self should have been more responsible so I didn’t become diabetic.”
-Jordan DeZeeuw

And Facebook user Allison Bailey, who stated she has Type 1 diabetes, offered several stinging comments: “As a pharmacist and a Iowa Senator (sic), you shouldn’t make generic comments about ‘personal responsibility’ on an article that generally focuses on Type 1, plus you should make the distinction on which type of diabetes you’re referring to, because Type 1 certainly can’t be controlled with diet, exercise, and weight control.”

Bailey also suggested that Senator Greene offer a bill that would provide transparency in pharmaceutical prices, and mentioned that such a bill passed in Nevada.

By the end of the holiday weekend, Greene’s comment and the follow-up comments had been deleted. He made no mention of the comments, or of being hacked, on his Facebook page. He has not yet responded to an email query from Insulin Nation about this matter.

It should be noted that insulin can be a lifesaving drug therapy for some with Type 2 diabetes, as well, and that there is always a genetic component to whether an individual will have Type 2 diabetes. It was an Iowan blogger with Type 2 diabetes (“The Angry Type 2 Diabetic”) who forwarded this Facebook comment thread to Insulin Nation.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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