CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One family’s heartbreak is now helping to save the lives of thousands of people, and they’re hoping for more awareness about a lifesaving law.
Kevin Houdeshell was a healthy and active 27-year-old.
“He always maintained his cross country upbringing. Eat healthy, exercise, live right,” his mom, Judy, said.
A sudden diagnosis of diabetes, understandably gave his parents a shock.
“He thinks that there was a virus that attacked his pancreas and shut it down,” Danny, Kevin’s father, said.
For the next 10 years, Kevin learned to control the life-changing disease. He took insulin daily to help manage the symptoms. During the New Year’s holiday in 2013, Kevin’s parents got an unexpected phone call. Kevin was dead. His body was found at his home. His co-workers checked on him after he didn’t show up for a shift at work.
“It started on New Year’s Eve and they found him on the 8th. We don’t know when he died,” Judy said.
His family traced his last days, piecing together what happened. They found out his death could have easily been prevented.
“He had stopped on his way to work to have his insulin refilled,” Kevin’s parents said.
Kevin’s lifesaving medication was expired. His family said the pharmacist wouldn’t fill it. Kevin tried calling his doctor, but it was a holiday and there was no response.
"How can your son, or one of your children, or anybody stand in front of a pharmacy and not be able to get your life sustaining medication?” Danny asked.
Kevin’s parents decided to take action. In March 2016, House Bill 188 or Kevin’s Law took effect in Ohio.
The law allows pharmacists to give patients a 30-day supply of a lifesaving drug like insulin even if the prescription is expired.
The law saved Shannon Bennett’s daughter, Morgan.
"I’ve used Kevin’s law more than once to get refills,” Bennett said.
Morgan was diagnosed with asthma at a young age. She uses her inhaler multiple times each day and has been hospitalized a handful of times.
"If she laughs really hard. Her asthma will act up,” Bennett explained.
Even with Kevin’s law enacted, getting an expired prescription fulfilled isn’t always easy for some families.
“Pharmacists don’t know the law,” Bennett said.
Bennett said she often times has to physically show pharmacists the law, just to get her daughters expired prescription refilled.
“It’s frustrating because I shouldn't have to beg for a drug that's going to keep my daughter alive,” she said.
19 News called a handful of local pharmacies to see if they know about Kevin’s Law. Some knew about the law, others did not.
A spokesperson with The Ohio Pharmacists Association pointed to a two to three inch book of constantly changes rules and regulations as one of the reasons some pharmacy workers still don’t know about the law.
If your pharmacist or tech tries to question if you can get a refill, you can point to the law. Still, the law isn’t mandatory. It’s up to the discretion of pharmacy workers and they can still deny a prescription refill.
“It needs more attention. We need to get it out there,” Bennett said.
On top of all of that, some insurance companies won’t pay for a refill if it’s expired.
For Kevin’s family, they know there’s still a long way to go when it comes to making prescriptions affordable and available and hearing stories of the law saving lives like Morgan’s are heartwarming.
“That’s the only thing that keeps us going because it’s so hard,” Danny said.
While those stories dull the pain, ultimately there’s no prescription to cure the loss of a child.
“Everybody says you should be so proud. It’s hard to do. Kevin’s so deep in your heart,” he said.
Since Kevin's law was enacted in Ohio, at least a dozen other states have passed similar laws, allowing pharmacists to refill expired life-saving medications. The Ohio Pharmacists Association said patients are their own health care advocates and encourage you to remind pharmacists about the law if they aren't aware of it.
The Ohio Pharmacists Association is also working with lawmakers to create a bill that would prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from increasing costs for an expired prescription.