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The International Diabetes Foundation defines diabetes as a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces.


Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that acts like a key to let glucose from the food we eat pass from the bloodstream into the cells in the body to produce energy. All carbohydrate foods are broken down into glucose in the blood. Insulin helps glucose get into the cells. 


The Foundation further defines type one diabetes as the inability to produce insulin. It cannot be controlled with just food and exercise.


Type two diabetes is the inability to produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not respond adequately to what’s produced.  It can sometimes be controlled by food and exercise.


Kern County has the highest number of deaths from diabetes in the state of California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 13.5% of our community is diabetic, according to healthykerncounty.org.


 Life or death: Insulin

Suggesting home remedies or unregulated sources of insulin like cheaper alternatives that don’t work the same as what’s prescribed are also unhelpful ways that well-meaning friends sometimes react when they hear about cases like Ysabela’s. 

Public information about how insurance companies are not covering what their diabetic patients need has garnered recent public attention due to deaths from insulin rationing. 

“Diabetics’ quality of life depends on their access to getting the insulin they need and being able to afford supplies. The cost varies with each insurance provider and sometimes, the cap on how many vials of insulin insurance will cover means life or death because they won’t cover the full month since patients’ needs vary day to day. Our kids need it every single time they eat; that’s non-negotiable,” said Paglinawan. 

Dr. Frederick Banting won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923 for his pioneering work with insulin. He sold its patent for $1 with the express desire to make the life-saving medicine accessible to all, according to the American Council on Science and Health. 

After the patent’s expiration, private pharmaceutical companies have controlled the price of insulin, which has surged in the past 30 years and now depends on the structured participation of private insurance companies.


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