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The Price of Insulin

Nov 16, 2016

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n the past couple of months, there may have been several healthcare discussions within classrooms, small groups or clinical practices regarding the pricing of medications. One of those discussions may have been about the price of EpiPens. The price of pharmaceutical medications was part of the presidential campaigns and debates. As diabetes educators, we are in constant contact with other members of the healthcare team and patients, who may be concerned about the rising cost of insulin.


Insulin is not even 100 years old


What may or may not be surprising to patients is that insulin is not even 100 years old. However, there has been a steady rise in prescriptions for analog insulins since 2000, rising from 2.9 million prescriptions per year to currently 47 million prescriptions annually. With the rise of analog insulins, older insulins, such as human insulin, have declined to 6 million prescriptions per year. Based on the changes of these prescriptions, there has also been a change in the price. One specific example is the price of Humalog. The price of Humalog was once $17 a vial and can now be as high as $250 per bottle. Based on other statistics, the cost of insulin has increased by 218% from 2003 to 2013, while non-insulin therapies have declined in cost by 15%. 

There are patients who are concerned about the rise of insulin due to higher co-pays or paying for insulin out-of-pocket due to loss of insurance. In addition, some people may be in the “donut hole” and therefore, are paying the high cost associated with the drug. It would not be surprising in these cases if patients were hoarding their insulin or were non-adherent to recommended and prescribed doses. For those patients using low-dose insulin, he or she may be using the vial beyond the recommended expiration date once opening the bottle.

For the group, has this been an issue in your practice? What educational points have you told to your health care team? To your patients? Share your thoughts so we can learn from each other.


Jennifer ClementsAbout the Author

Jennifer Clements received her Doctorate of Pharmacy from Campbell University in 2006 and completed a primary care residency at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2007. She is also a certified diabetes educator and board certified in pharmacotherapy. Currently, she is the Interim Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy.

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