What is Causing the Rising Price of Insulin?

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For people with Diabetes, insulin is not a luxury, it is necessary for them to stay alive. Yet the price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years. For many people with diabetes, these rising costs have placed an enormous burden on them. Imagine having to make a choice between keeping your electric on or buying insulin, pay your rent, or buy insulin, buy groceries or buy the medicine you need to survive.

What Effects the Price of Insulin?

According to Alan Carter, PharmD, principal investigator and senior advisor at MRIGlobal, and adjunct faculty at University of Missouri­–Kansas City School of Pharmacy, the costs of insulin have to do with raw material and manufacturing equipment costs, quality control and wholesale distribution, and pharmacy costs. But the primary impact to the rising price of insulin is the rebate programs that the federal government requires through the Medicaid rebate program, and the PBM’s rebates.

When insulin was first discovered in 1921, the patent was sold to a university for $3 so that no one else could patent it and “secure a profitable monopoly.”. At the time, a vial of insulin could be bought for less then $1. But newer forms of insulin have come out since then. All of the newer forms came out at higher prices, and the prices just kept going up. One form of insulin that was available in 1997 for $17 a vial had risen to $138 in 2016. Another form that was just released a few years ago at $21 a vial now costs $255 for the same amount.

According to Insulin manufacturers, these list prices don’t tell the full story because “nobody pays list prices”. They claim that they aren’t making more profits now from insulin then they did before the drastic price increases. The manufacturers claim that the insurers negotiate secret rebates with the pharmacies that limits the price the insurer has to pay, while leaving the the end user paying the most and the manufacturer receiving the least.

Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) are both parents of children with type 1 diabetes and leaders of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus. They have opened an investigation into these practices, and are trying to get to the bottom of the rising price of insulin.


The Co-pay Issue

Insulin is sold in specific sized vials. Patients are prescribed different amounts of insulin. So in many cases, a patient may need 3 vials of insulin to last through a month, but since the three vials are actually 33 days worth of insulin, and therefore is more then a 30 day supply, the patient has to pay the higher “60 day supply” co-pay. Sometimes patients may be allowed up to a 90 day supply, so they are only able to get 5 vial of insulin (about a 77 day supply) because 6 vials would be a 92 day supply. Because of this, patients run the risk of running out of insulin which could lead to costly hospitalizations, or even death.

What Do We Do?

As we can see, the rising price of insulin is causing undue hardships on many Americans. Most of us agree that these people need help to get the medicine they need to survive, but what can we do? One thing you can do that will immediately help a child that needs insulin, and who’s parents are having trouble affording the medicine, is to donate to an organization like Help a Diabetic Child Foundation who purchases diabetic supplies and insulin for children and college students with diabetes who are in financial need.

The Costs of Insulin

  • 5 Humalog Kwikpens – $650.00
  • 5 NovoLog Flexpens – $588.00
  • 5 Lantus SoloSTAR pens – $405.00
  • 1 NovoLog Vial – $310.00
  • 1 Lantus Vial – $275.00
  • 1 Humalog Vial – $330.00