About 29 million Americans are diabetic and require insulin according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions of other people around the world are also impacted by this disease. With so many people needing insulin to quite frankly live, it is very unfortunate that many drug companies have continued to push through price increases for this critical medication. In fact the average cost of the most popular insulins have gone up about 65% since January 2013.
The exact amount of the increase will vary by brand and manufacturer. However GoodRx reports that the average price has gone up from $300 per dosage to about $500 as of the end of 2016, which equates to about a 65% price hike. This type of increase is obviously putting tremendous pressure on those millions of Americans who need this critical medication to treat their disease. It is becoming all but impossible for low income patients to afford it, even though there are some programs that help pay for prescription drugs.
Prices of popular insulin products
While the number of drug manufacturers that are entering this marketplace continues to increase, there are some more popular types of insulin sold. The price listed below that consumers should pay is reported by GoodRx. The price is for 5 solostar pens of 3ml or 1 carton of generics. These costs should be the maximum that a patient should pay, whether they have insurance or not. Up through 2016 the top sellers were as follows.
- 1) Lantus – $381 (58% increase since January 2013)
- 2) Humalog – $501 (69% increase)
- 3) Novolog – $501 (66% increase)
- 4) Levemir – $412 (13% increase in 2014)
- 5) Humulin N – $446 (7%increase since June 2015)
Note some of the insulins have not been on the market since January 2013. But even though they have been released to the public after that date those medications have also had significant price increases as shown above.
Impact to patients
The health insurance as well as pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) industry is pushing back on these 65% increases. Not only are drug prices going up, but other supplies are increasing too. Therefore there will be changes made to which brands of insulin are covered by certain health insurance policies.
There may also be changes to patient deductibles as well as their out of pocket costs for using certain types of medications. These changes are bound to impact the many millions of Americans who rely on insulin for their health care needs.
As just one example of a change, CVS Caremark will no longer cover the leading insulin of Lantus. United Health is also cutting back on how much they will reimburse a patient if they use that Sanofi Lantus product. Instead the nation’s leading health insurance company will only reimburse their customers if they select a competing product of Basaglar, which is made by Eli Lilly.
There are many other examples as well of insurance plans changing either which insulin they will pay for or maybe even dropping coverage for the drug its entirety. Some will stop offering free diabetic supplies too. Many of these changes have been occurring through 2016, and the pace is expected to increase in 2017. These steps may be the only thing that companies can do to try to combat those 60%+ increases. For those seeking other information, find free diabetic supplies.
What this means for the tens of millions of people with Type A or B diabetes is that they should either expect to change the type or brand of insulin they use in 2017, or they should expect to pay much more out of pocket if they are not open to this. As many insurers as well as PBMs will no longer accept some of the increases that have been implemented by the manufacturers.