Nicole Holt-Smith arrived at pharmaceutical giant Sanofi’s research facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday carrying a powerful testament to the consequences of price gouging essential medicines under a for-profit health system: the ashes of her son, Alec.
Alec Raeshawn Smith lived with Type 1 diabetes and lost health coverage under his parent’s insurance plan when he turned 26. He died last year after attempting to ration his insulin supply by cutting doses to make it last longer. Along with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, Sanofi is one the three major insulin manufacturers accused of gouging diabetes patients worldwide who use the blood-sugar regulating hormone as a prescription drug in order to stay healthy.
“Sanofi’s high prices are killing people like my son Alec,” Smith-Holt said in a statement before the action. “I’m sick of them listening to my story and then doing nothing. I’m not asking them to lower prices anymore, I’m demanding it.”
Along with parents of two other young people who died rationing insulin, Holt-Smith attempted to deliver Alec’s ashes to Sanofi officials during a protest at the research facility on Friday. The parents were flanked by dozens of local diabetes patients, doctors, nurses and students affiliated with the Right Care Alliance, a grassroots group fighting for a health care system that puts people over profits. The Democratic Socialists of American and Physicians for a National Health Program also organized the action.
Police blocked protesters from approaching the Sanofi office, but organizers negotiated with them to allow the parents to deliver the ashes of Alec and Antavia Lee-Worsham, who also died while rationing insulin last year. Security guards then turned the parents away at the front door, threatening them with arrest. All of Sanofi’s employees had been sent home for the day, according to Right Care Alliance spokesperson Aaron Toleos.