Cost of Insulin Found to Have Tripled Over Past Decade

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Cost of Insulin Found to Have Tripled Over Past Decade
Cost of Insulin Found to Have Tripled Over Past Decade

WEDNESDAY, April 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The price of insulin has tripled in only 10 years, according to a letter published in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Moreover, since 2010, per-person spending on insulin in the United States was more than spending on all other diabetes drugs.

Philip Clarke, Ph.D., a professor of health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and colleagues teamed up with researchers from the University of Michigan to gather information on 27,878 patients treated for diabetes, looking to see what patients and their insurance companies paid for insulin and other diabetes medications from 2002 to 2013. Other medications included metformin, sulfonylureas, glitazones, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors, amylin analogs, and glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists.

During the time period studied, insulin's cost rose from $231 a year per patient to $736. The average amount of insulin used also went up -- from 171 mL to 206 mL. Additionally, the researchers found the per-milliliter cost jumped from $4.34 to $12.92 during the study period. In 2013, a patient on an analog insulin could expect to pay about $508 for a year's worth of insulin. The annual cost of all the other diabetes drugs combined was about $503 per person.

"The 'list price' of insulin -- typically the center of the price discussion -- is not what manufacturers receive; rather it is a starting point for negotiations with payers, wholesalers, and others involved in the distribution process," according to a statement from Eli Lilly & Co., an insulin manufacturer. Lilly's statement said its 'net price' for Humalog -- its most commonly used insulin -- increased an average of 1.6 percent a year from 2010 to 2015. Andrew Purcell, vice president and head of the diabetes business unit at Sanofi, said the Affordable Care Act has ushered in some changes that might lead to sticker shock when patients get their prescriptions. "Historically, people have typically been paying co-pays of around $30 to $50, but with the growth of high-deductible health plans, the average deductible is over $1,000," he told HealthDay.

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