Cheryl Hick's Story: Frozen Insulin Can be Life-Threatening

The mail-order pharmacy said that they were “sorry for the inconvenience.” "Inconvenience? I could have died."

My name is Cheri Hicks. I am a type 2 diabetic and I take insulin and Victoza injections daily to control my blood sugar.

The morning of Friday, November 16 2018 I had been waiting for my insulin delivery from AllianceRx via FedEx. It had been in transit at that point for 2 days. Insulin ships in a styrofoam cooler layered between frozen gel packs and insulated from the gel packs by layers of bubble wrap.

My shipment finally arrived at 4:30pm. There had been multiple delays to my order for many reasons. I was nervous about running out of doses before the shipment arrived.

The next week was Thanksgiving and I packed a new insulin pen from that shipment to take with me to stay with my family.

I began to not feel quite right but sometimes that happens with diet deviations at the holiday.

The following week I still wasn’t feeling right and I began to take a series of blood sugar readings on Wednesday, November 28, 2018. One reading taken prior to bed showed my blood sugar level at 297!

That sort of reading is not like me. I stay in tight compliance and my A1C readings have been well below 7 for a few years. I changed test strip vials and tried again. I drank water and tried again. The next morning my fasting levels were at 212. I contacted my doctor. I wasn’t feeling like I had a cold or sinus infection which can cause higher blood sugar levels.

I continued to track my food and my blood sugar for another day and my sugar remained in the upper 200s. My doctor finally told me to come pick up some sample pens on Friday, December 1, 2018.

Using the sample pen, I began to see lowered blood sugar almost immediately. It took three days for my blood sugar to stabilize.

I contacted AllianceRx to let them know my doctor and I suspected the insulin had been compromised and since the shipment had been delayed due to a snowstorm, and the cold gel packs were still partially frozen, we thought the insulin may have frozen in transit.

AllianceRx had me speak with a few people including a pharmacist before agreeing to replace the insulin. They apologized for the inconvenience.

It was more than an inconvenience. The risks of high blood sugars are: retinal hemorrhage, heart attack, stroke, diabetic neuropathy where blood flow is reduced to hands and feet causing risk to tissue and can lead to finger and toe amputation. Blood supply restricted to organs is also a problem and can cause kidney failure. My brother’s diabetes has caused him to have kidney failure and he has had multiple eye surgeries. I knew the risks were more than an inconvenience.

I read the NPR article about Loretta Boesing’s experience with her son’s medications. I wasn’t alone and I could do something to help.

This is why I began this Twitter account, this is why I contacted Loretta. I’m not just here to speak my truth and protect my health. I’m speaking for all of the people who cannot speak. I’m speaking for those whose health was compromised by temperature fluctuations degrading their medicines who cannot even track their health emergency back to their medication.

Diabetes is a horrible disease and it’s a daily struggle to eat right, exercise right and stay compliant with medicine. Patients shouldn’t have to worry that these life-saving medicines might be ineffective because of shipping temperature extremes.

Loretta Boesing