The cost of insulin is skyrocketing

Diabetes patients are paying the price

WITH MORE THAN 30 MILLION Americans living with diabetes, the chances are that you personally know someone with the disease. Here in New England, over 1.4 million individuals have diabetes — not including those that have yet to be diagnosed.  

Yet many people in New England and across the country are struggling to afford to pay for their insulin, with dire consequences including emergency hospitalization and even death. The average price of insulin, which has no substitute, has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, it nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, putting the lifesaving drug out of reach for many who need it.  

So why has there been such a dramatic increase in the price of insulin in recent years? Frustratingly, a lack of transparency in the insulin supply chain means this is unclear. Numerous parties play a role in the production and delivery of insulin to patients — including manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and pharmacies — and the pricing negotiations that occur between them are confidential. It is crucial that all parties are transparent throughout the process so that we can identify the changes that will lead to long-term improvement in insulin affordability. 

A patient survey conducted last year by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) confirmed that many individuals facing high out-of-pocket costs for insulin are not adhering to their diabetes care plan as they are forced to either ration or forgo insulin doses to reduce costs. Insulin is essential to maintaining appropriate blood glucose levels and reducing the risk of serious complications such as cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney disease, amputation and death. 

Given the critical situation faced by many people with diabetes, the ADA has expressed support for the Insulin Price Reduction Act in the U.S Senate. The legislation encourages manufacturers to reduce the list price of all insulin products to their 2006 list price. Importantly, these lower-priced products would not be subject to deductibles.  

Rolling back list prices for insulin products will make insulin more accessible for many Americans, both insured and uninsured. We applaud Senators Shaheen, Collins, Carper, and Cramer for their leadership in addressing this urgent issue and implore all members of Congress to act swiftly to bring down the cost of this life-saving medication by supporting the Insulin Price Reduction Act. 

Meet the Author
Meet the Author
Put simply, insulin is not a luxury. For those who need it, it is a matter of life and death. It should be affordable and accessible for all people who need it. The ADA and advocates like me will continue to work diligently to make this happen. The ADA’s Make Insulin Affordable petition tells all entities in the insulin supply chain that we need transparency, affordability and access, and calls on Congress to take action to ensure all people who need insulin have access to this life-saving drug. The petition has been signed by over 487,000 people to date and we urge all those affected by the disease to amplify our collective voice by signing the petition, sharing your story and spreading the word about this important issue. 

Dr. David Harlan is the co-director of the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence. Tim Garvin is a parent of a son with type 1 diabetes and co-chair of the ADA Massachusetts Advocacy Committee.