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A photo illustration featuring arranged diabetes medication and blood glucose meter photographed at the Nevada Diabetes Association in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The last year has been unlike any other. I still remember the first time I heard about COVID-19. I had been watching the evening news when reports of a new virus started flooding in, and over the next few days, it was all anyone was talking about. The first case in Nevada was then reported on March 5, 2020, and only a week later, Governor Sisolak declared a state of emergency.

Since that day, some socially distanced by working from home and only communicated with friends and family over video. As someone with diabetes, asthma, bronchitis, and severe allergies, I was terrified of catching the virus. I was not able to work from home, but I still took extra precautions and tried to stay as safe as possible.

Unfortunately, regardless of my precautions and care, I ended up being exposed and tested positive for COVID-19. Due to my pre-existing health conditions, my symptoms were incredibly severe. I ran a fever for days and constantly felt extreme fatigue – I was too weak to even stand up most days. My asthma attacks were also the worst they had ever been. It was dreadful, and I feared for my life.

Thankfully, I was able to be seen by some of our state’s best doctors and nurses who had access to the right treatment options, and I was eventually able to make a full recovery. I am incredibly grateful for their care and the treatments that helped keep me alive.    

And while my immediate battle with COVID-19 has subsided, I still continue to face challenges related to being a diabetic who was exposed to the virus.

When I was first released from the hospital, my blood glucose levels were off the charts. I had to monitor my blood sugar levels every two hours and give myself multiple insulin shots a day. At that time, I started working with my endocrinologist to find ways to combat this miserable situation.

Today, I’m proud to say that I am on new medication and have access to new technology that has completely changed my quality of life. Instead of having to measure my blood sugar levels eight times a day, I now have a continuous glucose monitor that does the work for me. I also now only need one insulin shot per day, and am hopeful my doctors will soon transition me to just a weekly dose. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the possibility of fewer needles.

I am also very aware that the reason fewer pricks and shots are a reality for me – not to mention my recovering from COVID-19 –  is because of biopharmaceutical innovation, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

The pharmaceutical industry has been making a lot of headlines lately for producing COVID-19 vaccines in record time, as they should, but I hope that, after the pandemic ends, we can all start to pay more attention to other lifesaving innovations our scientists and researchers are creating.

I think if we did, our elected leaders in Washington would better understand that they are actually hurting the very patients they are trying to help when they try to push through policies that will negatively impact innovation.

A perfect example of a misguided policy idea is known as “government price-setting.” While it may sound like a good idea on paper to help curb high out-of-pocket costs for patients, government price-setting policies would result in a significant reduction of investment in new drug development.

Trust me, I get it, patients out of pocket costs at the pharmacy counter need to come down but we need to look for other solutions, like addressing skyrocketing copays and deductibles, that will not hinder the opportunity to get new treatments and technologies in the hands of our most vulnerable patients.

The bottom line is, our leaders have a responsibility to ensure that America continues to lead the world in medical innovation, and I hope they will commit to finding a solution to high prices that does not obstruct the industry we are all relying on for cures and treatments.

Stephanie resides in Las Vegas with her husband.

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