Others’ opinion: Munson’s insulin video is dangerous

Published 5:39 am Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Free Press, Mankato

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

If only it were so simple.

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Finding a less expensive over-the-counter alternative to an expensive prescription drug would be a medical Shangri-La where one-size-fits all and side effects are nonexistent.

Except it’s not that simple.

When state Rep. Jeremy Munson posted a Facebook video recently about the availability of cheaper insulin on the shelf at Walmart, he entered dangerous, irresponsible territory. The Lake Crystal Republican’s shopping trip has the potential of encouraging diabetics to cut corners instead of listening to their medical providers.

Munson holds up a receipt with the $24.88 price for the human insulin he purchased over the counter. If you weren’t well-versed in the nuances of diabetes treatment, who wouldn’t be drawn in by that cost compared to the $300 for a couple of weeks of synthetic insulin some diabetics are being charged?

Cost is the theme of the video, posted during a time when state Republicans and Democrats were holding hearings on different proposals for providing insulin to diabetics who can’t afford it.

But solely considering price when treating diabetes could cost you your health.

Munson’s video fails to mention that advances in insulin manufacturing help ensure diabetics don’t experience as many peaks in blood sugar levels. Human insulin, which Munson so easily purchased, is an older version that isn’t as predictable, according to health experts and diabetics who have used it, including a woman who testified at the Capitol, describing her dangerous side effects. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have strongly criticized Munson’s video.

The reliability and predictability of synthetic insulin not only make the disease easier for many people to manage, but it’s better dosage accuracy can be life-saving. Low blood sugar can cause confusion, blurred vision and seizures. And those are just short-term effects. Diabetic coma and death may result when blood sugar levels are too high or too low.

Nowhere in the video did Munson urge viewers to talk to their doctors about their individualized treatment. Instead he says at the very bottom of a chunk of accompanying text that emphasizes low cost and widespread availability of the cheaper insulin that his post is not medical advice.

He shamelessly urges viewers to spread his affordability mantra by sharing the video so people know life-saving options exist if they are diabetic and can’t afford synthetic insulin. It’s like telling cancer sufferers to go back to using older chemotherapy drugs because they are cheaper than the newer, often more effective ones.

The House health and human services committee member is doing a disservice to Minnesotans when he oversimplifies the insulin issue. He should remove the video before someone swallows his argument and makes a deadly medication mistake.