A report published in the Journal of American Medical Association reveals that that the cost of insulin has tripled from 2002 to 2013. Highlights from the report indicate that the average cost of insulin rose from $231 to $736 a year per patient with insurance coverage.
The data for those paying list price for insulin is not readily available since pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies lack transparency over complicated price discount negotiations. With an estimated 422 million adults living with diabetes worldwide, the price increase of insulin signals serious consequences for individuals without health insurance.
New Insulin Formulations and Higher Prices
At the core of the price increase is the development of newer types of long-acting insulin that offer advanced delivery methods. Developed in the 1920’s, insulin was first derived from animals and was then later reformulated in the 1970’s using a human insulin gene. As newer advanced insulin analogs later emerged, formulations were engineered to mimic the body’s own insulin to help patients with diabetes control blood sugar faster.
As insulin formulations changed, so did administration methods from syringes to advanced compact pens. The change from syringe administration to more convenient methods were made to improve adherence to the therapy. However, the switch from vial forms of insulin to premeasured dosage pens also caused an increase in prices. Take, for example, the Humalog Pen, a fast-acting mealtime insulin that conveniently premeasures each dose in compact pen design that can be easily transported. At a nearly $600 retail price for five insulin pens before insurance, the cost of this therapy places a burden on those with high insurance deductibles or the uninsured.
Standard Administration of Insulin Pen Medication
To make matters worse for diabetics who lack access to adequate prescription drug coverage, there are almost no generic versions of insulin available. This shortage is driven by subtle changes in insulin formulations by pharmaceutical companies to extend patent protections on their medications and keep costs high. The consequences of this often leads to patients without adequate coverage skipping insulin dosing, which can cause an array of complications like kidney failure that complicate the treatment of the disease.
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