US insulin costs per patient nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016: Study

Published: January 22, 2019 19:22:47 | Updated: January 25, 2019 13:11:29

Insulin supplies are pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US, January 18, 2019. Reuters photo

The cost of insulin for treating type 1 diabetes in the United States nearly doubled over a five-year period, underscoring a national outcry over rising drug prices, according to a new analysis shared with Reuters.

A person with type 1 diabetes incurred annual insulin costs of $5,705, on average, in 2016. The average cost was roughly half that at $2,864 per patient in 2012, according to a report due released on Tuesday by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI).

The figures represent the combined amount paid by a patient and their health plan for the medicine and do not reflect rebates paid at a later date.

The increasing cost of insulin has led some patients to put their own health at risk.

In recent months, anecdotal stories have cropped up from family members and patients describing the rationing of the life-saving medication because they could not afford out-of-pocket expenses for insulin. That has also led to some protests outside company headquarters of insulin makers.

HCCI said the jump in spending was driven primarily by higher insulin prices overall and, to a lesser extent, a shift toward more expensive insulin products. Average daily insulin use rose only 3 per cent over the same five-year period, the report found.

“It’s not that individuals are using more insulin or that new products are particularly innovative or provide immense benefits,” Jeannie Fuglesten Biniek, a senior researcher at HCCI and the report’s co-author said in a phone interview.

“Use is pretty flat, and the price changes are occurring in both older and newer products. That surprised me. The exact same products are costing double,” she said.

Drugmakers say they periodically need to raise US list prices of their medications to help offset steep rebates they must offer to get them covered by insurance plans. In the last two years, major pharmaceutical makers have limited annual price hikes of prescription medicines under growing pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump and Congress.

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