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Rising Cost of Insulin? Here’s What You Can Do

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by Eli Kengerlinski, 2019 PharmD Candidate
University of Florida College of Pharmacy

Over the years, insulin prices have increased in accordance with newly developed insulins that have come to market. Traditional insulins, short and intermediate acting, as compared to newer rapid and long acting insulins, are less expensive in market value.1 Biosimilar traditional insulins with expired patents (some since 2000) may be a better option for some patients, as their market price has significantly dropped over the years. However, many patients are still having trouble affording their monthly Lantus or Humalog due to their high copays.

Why is insulin important?

Insulin plays an important role in managing patients with Diabetes Mellitus (DM). Patients with Type 1 DM have limited ability to produce endogenous insulin due to their pancreas’s inability to properly function. Patients with Type 2 DM can also have increased dependence on insulin therapy use as their disease state progresses. It is crucial for certain diabetic patient populations to have insulin at hand as they cannot control their sugar levels with just oral medications (eg. Metformin) that have no effect on insulin production. Type 1 DM population, there’s a greater need for basal (intermediate or long acting) as well as mealtime (rapid or short acting) insulin.

What options do you have?

Lifestyle modifications towards a healthier diet and exercise can be the most important changes any diabetic can make, and help ensure proper management of your condition. Monitoring your daily sugar levels, managing your weight via carb counting or following the plate method2, as well as exercising 30 minutes a day, five times a week, are all great habits to ensure effective DM management.

From January 2014 to July 2018, short and intermediate acting insulins have dropped in price equaling less than half of rapid and long acting insulins in the market today.1 Even if newer insulins offer better sugar control, their high prices make it difficult for patient access. For these specific patient populations, traditional insulins should be considered to ensure patient adherence to DM therapy and prevent patients using less of their insulin. If you’re having trouble paying for your insulin, then ask your provider if short and intermediate acting insulins would be right for you. Also contact your insurance company to see if you qualify for additional programs (eg. Medicare, Medicaid).

Furthermore, ask your provider if there are generic alternatives to your rapid or long acting insulin. For example, Admelog costs 12 to 15% less than Humalog while Basaglar costs about 15% less than Lantus on a per insulin unit basis.3 Therefore, it is important to ask for biosimilar generics that have the same active ingredient as they are usually cheaper.

Another affordable alternative to ensure access to insulin would be switching patients on high cost insulin pens to vials. Even though pens are more convenient and patient friendly, vials should be considered, especially if you’re having trouble affording your insulin. However, do ensure that you are instructed on how to properly inject your insulin.

If you’re still having trouble affording your insulin, ask your local pharmacist for a manufacturer savings card. If you need help with diabetic medications, visit www.wellrx.com for substantial prescription savings at pharmacies throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

REFERENCES:

  1. Eisenberg Center at Oregon Health & Science University. Premixed Insulin Analogues: A Comparison With Other Treatments for Type 2 Diabetes. 2009 Mar 25. In: Comparative Effectiveness Review Summary Guides for Clinicians [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2007-. [Table], Price of Insulin. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45287/table/clininsulin.tu1/
  2. Lara Hamilton. “How to Create Your Plate.” Diabetes Forecast, Nov. 2015, diabetesforecast.org/2015/adm/diabetes-plate-method/how-to-create-your-plate.html
  3. “Sanofi Launches Follow-On Insulin Lispro, Admelog.” The Center for Biosimilars Staff, 9 Apr. 2018, www.centerforbiosimilars.com/news/sanofi-launches-followon-insulin-lispro-admelog.

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