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Young man dies after losing his insurance and turning to cheaper form of insulin

Josh Wilkerson died on June 14, 2019, five days after suffering a series of strokes and slipping into a diabetic coma, at a North Virginia dog kennel where he worked as a manager making $16.50 an hour. Wilkerson was 27 years old. He and his fiancee, Rose Walters, were trying to save money to pay for their approaching wedding, and after aging out of eligibility for coverage under his father’s insurance, Wilkerson was having a terrible time trying to afford his insulin costs. According to his mother and his fiancee, Wilkerson had begun taking “human insulin,” a considerably cheaper, “lower-grade medication.”

The cost difference made the drug affordable for Wilkerson—the over-the-counter version of the drug is one-tenth the price of the more effective and unaffordable version. But doctors do not suggest it for all patients as a stopgap because it is less effective, and it is considerably slower at stabilizing one’s blood-sugar levels, taking hours longer to be effective than the prescription version.

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Walters told The Washington Post that Wilkerson was working an overnight shift at the kennel to make more money. The two had FaceTimed one another before going to bed, at which point Wilkerson complained of stomach pains. Walters reminded him to take his medication, which he said he would do. Both Walters and Wilkerson have Type 1 diabetes, the genetically determined variant of the disease. When Wilkerson didn’t respond to a call the next morning, Walters ran over and found him unconscious on the floor, telling the paper, “I just remember smacking him on the face, saying, ‘Babe, wake up. You have to wake up.’”

The tragedy of Josh Wilkerson’s death is that it was preventable. If Wilkerson had been able to afford his medicine, he would have been taking those lifesaving drugs. Wilkerson’s situation is not unique in our medicine-for-money country. At least 25% of diabetes patients say that they ration their insulin medications in order to make financial ends meet. This is a dangerous balance that people are forced to strike as the prices of insulin (as well as most drug prices) in our country continue to skyrocket.


Cost of Insulin Pens:•Norway: $0•Scotland: $0•Thailand: $5•Australia: $28•Mexico: $35•Taiwan: $40•Greece: $51•Italy: $61•Canada: $70•Germany: $73………•United States: $700Americans are dying b/c politicians claim we can’t afford #MedicareForAll

— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) August 7, 2019

The fundamental issue is greed and a medical industry focused on profit over accessibility. Pharmaceutical companies cannot make money from cheap insulin, and stopped producing cheaper but effective alternatives decades ago. This has led to the deaths of people such as Josh Wilkerson, trying to make ends meet and dying so that a company can show growing quarterly profits on its bank statements.

Teenager wins $50,000 award for extracting 87% of microplastics from water using magnetic liquid

There are many pressing issues facing our world. Climate change driven by human activity is probably the most urgent. Another issue, however, is the by-products of industry, such as microplastics. Microplastics are defined as small bits, smaller than 5 millimeters in length, that collect in our wastewater and make it through most filtration systems into our oceans and rivers. Subsequently, everything living in those bodies of water is affected—from coral reefs ingesting plastics to the entire marine food chain. There’s a good chance that anything you’ve eaten in the past week had a little bit of plastic in it.

A teenager from an island off of southern Ireland, inspired by the remnants of an oil spill, has come up with a novel way to use NASA-invented magnetic liquid to extract microplastics from water. Eighteen-year-old Fionn Ferreira hypothesized that he could pull out about 85% of the microplastics in his experiment. As Business Insider explains, NASA engineer Steve Papell, in trying to magnetize rocket fuel in 1963 to combat zero-gravity conditions in space, created the first ferrofluid. 

Ferreira created his own ferrofluid using a combination of oil and magnetite powder. He added the ferrofluid into water containing microplastics and then, after those plastics attached themselves to the fluid, he extracted them using a magnet. According to Forbes, Ferreira ran 1,000 tests and was able to show that his “method was 87% effective in removing microplastics of all sorts from water.”  

On Monday, Ferreira won and received Google Science Fair’s $50,000 grand prize. The Irish Times writes that Ferreira has won 12 science awards over the past few years and “has a minor planet named after him by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory in recognition of his achievement at the 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.”

Fionn Ferreira explains that, while he is excited that his research might lead to some worthwhile Band-Aids for our microplastics issues, the solutions for our environmental pollution problems are still on us: “I’m not saying that my project is the solution. The solution is that we stop using plastic altogether.”  

This morning I flossed and brushed my teeth. All by myself. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.

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