A price not so sweet: the rising costs of insulin

By: Dylan Frazier

Email: frazierd@findlay.edu

Last November, a study was conducted by the Congressional Diabetes Caucus and revealed that the price of Insulin has went up 300 percent from 2002-2013. According to Diabetes Self-Management’s webpage, insulin now costs between $400 and $500 a month without insurance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there are 30.3 million Americans who have diabetes but the cost of the medicine that keeps people with diabetes alive has skyrocketed. According to a professor at the University of Findlay, the reason for this is not a simple answer.

Dr. Laura Perry, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at UF, says obtaining Insulin is a very complex idea that has many moving parts, with decisions being made by many different people. Perry’s thinks the main three reasons; drug makers, wholesalers, and pharmacy benefit managers, are the reason why the price is so high.

“Manufacturers have costs involved with making the insulin and research and development, etc. The wholesalers will have cost associated with distributing the drugs to the pharmacies,” said Perry. “The pharmacy benefit managers and the insurance companies help to contract pricing between the pharmacy benefit manager and the manufacturer.”

She went on to say that they all work together to try and get the best price of the drug.

Perry also stated that these pharmaceutical companies have things called rebate programs. This is where the wholesalers will work with manufacturers to exclusively distribute insulin. Pharmacy benefit managers will then work manufacturers to certain types available on certain insurance companies. According to Perry this is what leads to an eventual increase in price.

One other way companies can keep the prices high is by altering the patents of insulin before the expire.

“When the manufacturers will change the insulin formulations slightly and rebrand it to get patent extensions on it,” explained Perry. “Instead of offering insulin for a cheaper price, they just continue to offer it at the brand price.

“As inflation goes up and rebate systems happen, that’s where we see the escalation (of prices),” said Perry.

There have been attempts to make insulin more affordable. In the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, there is a plan in place to fast track generic types of insulin to become available to the market. If it were to be enacted, it would take place in March of 2020.

Perry also mentioned that there are waiver programs that make insulin more affordable.

“Some of these drug companies offer some type of patient-assistance programs,” Perry said. “Where if you have a low enough income and you don’t have insurance, you can apply to get free insulin.”

Another thing that companies are doing to help with the rising costs are they are giving patients older vials of insulin.

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