Monthly Archives: April 2015

Heading out again.

As the sun begins to break through again (thank you rain, but thank you sun!), I’m all packed and ready to head off to something called the HealtheVoices conference in Jersey City… wait for it… New Jersey.  It’s just across the Hudson river from Manhattan.

This is not just a diabetes conference– there will be a number of online patient advocates in attendance who are dealing with a myriad of medical conditions, including HIV, breast cancer, cardiovascular issues, Chron’s/colitis, and many others.  I’m very interested in getting ideas and perspective from people living with and affected by conditions that are not my own.

The conference has been put together by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which, among other things, produces the Type 2 medication Invokana.

This is where I tell you that Janssen Pharmaceuticals is paying for my train travel, hotel, and meals so I can take part in this gathering.  In case you’re wondering, all opinions expressed here, or using the #HealtheVoices15 hashtag are entirely my own.

This is the first time a company has invited me, at their expense, to attend a conference.  Guess I should think about creating that disclosures page now.

If I can, I’ll let you know what’s happening when it’s happening. Otherwise, I’ll try to give you a recap later on.

I hope your weekend is off to a great start, and I hope the nasty weather stays away from your part of the world too. Talk to you Monday!

Veg Report: Watcha growin’ this year, Stephen?

Weeellll, how nice of you to ask!

I did get my veggies in the ground this past weekend. For some around here, that’s a bit early; we sometimes get frost as late as May. But I’m hoping the really cold weather is behind us, and even if it isn’t, I’ll find a way to keep the frost away from my tender plants.

I’ve grown vegetables for twenty-something years now, and this is the eighteenth year I’ve been growing them in the same place: same yard, same spot. I rotate where I plant what about every other year, but other than that, this spot works well. Lots and lots of sun. We’ve also got a separate herb garden (where we also grow strawberries), but that’s not worth showing right now, especially since the strawberries are threatening to overrun the joint.

For the vegetable garden, here’s the layout:

Over there on the right are the greens: Romaine lettuce in the front, and red leaf lettuce in the back. In about five weeks, I’ll have more fresh salad makings than I’ll know what to do with. And I like that.

A little to the left of the romaine is radicchio. Radicchio is a little peppery, and it’s a good compliment in a salad to something a little milder, like romaine or iceberg lettuce. Plus, it’s great in alternative dishes like a carrot salad.

Moving left, you’ll see a decent sized open space. This is where I’ve grown green beans in years past. I don’t know if I’m going to do green beans again this year. I still have some in the freezer from last year’s garden. Instead, I think I’ll drop a couple potatoes in there and see what they can do. I’ve had some success with potatoes in the past, and they’re about the easiest thing to grow. Just save a couple of your favorite potatoes (mine are red skin potatoes) from the store until they start sprouting, then plant them. After a couple of months, reach your hand down in the soil near where you planted them, and see if anything is there. Doesn’t take much more than that.

Moving left past the bare space, you’ll see a very small yellow squash plant. This is supposed to grow those small, straight, yellow squashes that are great for a number of things. But my experience tells me that when plants get enough water, they’re usually straight, and when they’re dehydrated, they get a little misshapen. Kinda like me.

Next to the squash are three pepper plants. One is a “lunchbox” pepper, which is supposed to produce little yellow and orange sweet peppers. I’m hoping they produce, but I haven’t grown this one before, so whatever happens, happens. The other two are my favorites: poblano peppers, which are sort of smoky and are great in almost anything.

In the back are our three tomato plants. These are all heirloom tomatoes. According to Wikipedia, “an heirloom tomato (also called heritage tomato in the UK) is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato”.

From right to left, there’s a cherry tomato plant, that was extremely prolific last year. In the middle is my favorite tomato, the Mr. Stripey. It grows orange, with little yellow stripes, and it is delicious. The other one is a Cherokee Purple, which, once it ripens, is pretty much how it sounds.

I’ve also got an extra planter with arugula and additional radicchio, because I bought too many plants.

There’s no real point in sharing all of this with you, except to keep a record of what I’m growing, and to tell you how exciting it is to plant something, care for it, watch it grow, and harvest it months later.

Taking care of my veggie garden never gets old. What are you growing this year?

A new Champion Athlete With Diabetes! Betsy Ray.

I’m always shocked at how people who are doing amazing things in the diabetes community write me about their athletic achievements, and then wonder if they really have done enough to earn a Champion Athlete With Diabetes medal.

One of those people is Betsy Ray. Betsy is already founder and CEO of a group called Diabetes Activist. Diabetes Activist is all about supporting People With Diabetes, helping them toward a healthier, happier future while living with this chronic condition. They include a number of voices in the continuing dialogue of what works best for People With Diabetes, and they work to improve the outward message of People With Diabetes by educating and helping others toward a great understanding. Want to read her story? Click HERE.

That’s enough for me… but that’s not all.

Betsy is 52 years old, and she’s been living with diabetes for 50 years! She’s also got a daughter who’s been living with Type 1 Diabetes for the last 16 plus years, who is performing athletic wonders too.

Still not enough for you? How about this?

She rode in the Colorado Tour De Cure on August 14, 2014 and before that she did the Triple Bypass. The Triple Bypass is a 125 mile ride in Colorado that crosses three mountains with peaks above 10,000 feet. She turned in an awesome ride in the event, even though she had to get assistance due to snow(!) at the top of one of the passes.

Yet Betsy still felt the need to ask me: Am I eligible for a medal?

Are you kidding me? Eligible doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Oh yeah… Betsy Ray sounds like a Champion Athlete to me. She is exactly the type of athlete that inspires others to keep trying, and keep seeking their athletic dreams. Way to go Betsy!

So… the weather is warming up. Are you thinking about running that race, riding that ride, doing that swim, participating in that competition? I would love to hear about it! As always, I encourage you to click here, find out more, and send me an e-mail today.

A lot of zeros.

Like many, I’ve seen and heard the recent NPR story:
Why is insulin so expensive in the U.S.?

The story is based on research from Dr. Jeremy Greene from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (still trying to get an interview), where he is a professor of medicine and history of medicine. He did some research on the history and cost of insulin, and published his findings in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The truth is, we all know insulin is very expensive here. And we all have our own opinions on why we think insulin is expensive here (where are the generics?). After reading a few of these stories this week (because diabetes stories with an impact aren’t reported for months, then the same story is reported by everyone in a few days), and then reading comments below each piece, I started to become overwhelmed.

Partly, it was because of the numerous “facts” presented by commenters; and partly, it was because of the fact that I felt the really difficult questions haven’t been asked or answered on this yet. Regardless, I started to feel information overload coming on.

For me, when that happens, I usually try to pull back and simplify the subject at hand. I may not solve the problem this way, but it gives me a good starting point. So that’s what I did. I did some initial research into market share for the three big companies selling insulin in the States. I also researched how much insulin costs me, about how much I use on a monthly and yearly basis, and then I extrapolated that (which is fancy talk for multiplied) by the number of people taking insulin in the USA. I wanted to be conservative in my calculations.

This is not scientific… this is just designed to take a typical Type 1 customer (me), and consider the cost of the life-giving medication that I need every day. How much are me and my D-peeps, and our insurance providers, shelling out for insulin?

According to Dr. Greene’s research paper, there are currently 6,000,000 patients taking insulin in the United States.

I looked at the cost of insulin from my prescription provider for Lantus, Apidra, Novolog, Levemir, and Humalog. According to my prescription plan, the cost of a 100 unit insulin vial (my cost plus my employer’s cost) breaks down as follows:

Lantus (made by Sanofi-Aventis): $250.01
Apidra (also made by Sanofi): $204.56
Novolog (made by Novo Nordisk): $204.65
Levemir (also made by Novo): $250.01
Humalog (made by Eli Lilly & Co.): $204.01

Humalog is not my insulin of choice, but it’s the cheapest in the list, so let’s go with that as a benchmark. In fact, let’s just round that number down to $200.00 to make the math easier. And to make it even easier, let’s say that I use one 100 unit vial of insulin every month. At that rate:

$200.00 per month X 12 months per year = $2,400.00

Now, let’s go a bit further (but not too much), and multiply again:

$2,400 per year X 6,000,000 insulin users in the USA = $14,400,000,000

That’s a lot of zeros, people. And this is just the United States we’re talking about. In fact, research from 2013 suggested a worldwide insulin market of $21 billion dollars in that year alone. And we know that there aren’t any fewer people living with diabetes in this country, or around the world today.

But still, let’s take that conservative $14.4 billion number and break it down by market share across these three companies. Again, there is no way this is science, but it should give us some sort of ballpark estimate of the amount of gross revenue that Sanofi, Lilly, and Novo are generating. The only data I could find on market share goes back to 2011, and is contained HERE. Since that is all I have, that is what I’m going with. Again, I’m just ballparking here. I’m not trying to arrive at the actual-to-the-dollar accounting involved, because how could I? Here we go:

In 2011, Sanofi-Aventis had a 37% value share of the market. Of our $14.4 billion, that would be:

In 2011, Novo Nordisk also had a 37% value share of the market. Of our $14.4 billion, that would be:

In 2011, Eli Lilly had a 26% value share of the market. Of our $14.4 billion, that would be:

Let’s be honest here, and recognize it takes lots of research and development, plus a lot of clinical trial testing, plus building out production of the drug, providing documentation to patients and doctors, and a lot of other things to bring a new insulin to market. What would that cost, exactly? A billion dollars? Two billion? If it cost three billion dollars for Lilly to bring Humalog, my lowest costing insulin to market, they almost certainly would have made a profit on their investment in one year alone. In this country alone.

You know, we still haven’t solved the “Why are there no generic insulins?” question. But really… why would there be? If you’re a director of one of these drug makers, or a shareholder, and you, or someone you love, doesn’t live with diabetes; or you can afford insulin regardless of the cost; why would you not want to fight tooth and nail to keep low cost alternatives out of the hands of patients?

This is where I like to remind people that making a profit is good… until it starts to affect someone’s well-being in a negative way. Then this practice must be stopped. Just like patients should trump proprietary, patients should also trump profit. Believe me… there is still plenty of money to be made.

Guess what? It costs a lot of money to buy insulin to stay alive too. I think… I hope… we can find a—dare I say it—Happy Medium here. I’ll be okay with drug companies making money on insulin, if they’ll be okay with me affording said insulin so I can stay alive. For a long time to come.

Wordless Wednesday: Kryptonite.

I like to change things up once in a while. I love my Glucolifts to help get me up from low blood sugar. But every now and then I like to get something else to put in my pocket, and it provides a nice change of pace so I don’t get burned out on the Wildberry, which is my absolute favorite.

This week, I decided to get these little buggers, and I put a few in my pocket for… well, you know. I even needed a couple on my way home from work yesterday, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t seem to bring me up at all. I also experienced some serious gastrointestinal discomfort through the night.

This morning, after closer inspection, I found out the reason why:


After this experience, I’ll be happy to run back to my Glucolifts.

And God help me when I get older and have trouble reading my prescription bottles. I’m only half kidding about that.

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