The cost of another life-saving drug has dramatically increased.
Back in September, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens, a widely used medication for severe allergic reactions, skyrocketed to $614—up from $100 back in 2007. The next drug with a soaring price tag: insulin.
However, unlike EpiPens, insulin drugs must be taken on a daily basis. This can be extremely costly, especially when you’re looking at possibly $120 to $400 per vial of insulin per month, according to a Johns Hopkins Medicine news release in March 2015. Additionally, unlike many other drugs, there are no generics on the market.
According to an October Washington Post article, a vial of insulin cost $17 in 1997 and is today priced at $138. Another version with a price of $21 per vial 20 years ago now costs $255. If you have health insurance, the list price may not be apparent. But if you are uninsured, have gaps in insurance, or have high-deductible health insurance, the price you’ll pay will be alarmingly clear.
There is debate as to why the cost has risen so sharply. Drug companies defend the pricing, stating there have been improvements over the years to the drugs; for example, newer versions of insulin are longer-lasting. However, some experts say the improvements don’t justify the higher pricing and are part of an overall strategy to keep prices high with new patent protections.
Not taking insulin or trying to save money by not taking a full dosage can be a decision with dire consequences for those with diabetes. It can lead to hospitalization and life-threatening situations such as a coma and kidney failure. Always check with your pharmacist about how to properly take your medication and carefully follow all instructions (visit the state Board of Pharmacy website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov to find a properly licensed pharmacist).
There is hope, however. According to The Washington Post. efforts are being made to create cheaper insulin options. For instance, Walmart sells an insulin version that is $25 per vial, and Eli Lilly is expected to release a less-expensive version by the end of this year.
In the meantime, patients facing high insulin prices should do all they can to properly manage their health, as well as talk to their doctors about the best options and do research on drug assistance programs. Visit the American Diabetes Association website for more information.