Delaware spends more health care dollars on diabetes than heart disease or cancer. The cost is about $1.1 billion a year in our state. One in three Delawareans has higher-than-normal blood sugar levels because they can’t efficiently produce and use insulin, according to a story published on Delaware Online. One of the priciest expenses related to diabetes is insulin, because people with Type 1 and one-third of those with Type 2 rely on insulin injections on a daily basis.
The price of insulin has risen dramatically in the last several decades, causing many patients to pay hundreds — even thousands — of dollars for the insulin they desperately need, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Why is insulin so expensive?
Producing insulin is not only expensive, but it can be a difficult process. Some of the difficulties are associated with the process of manufacturing insulin, and some are with the pharmaceutical industry’s profit-making mentality.
There is no generic or biosimilar alternative to insulin, and developing one would be extremely expensive for producers. Because of the manufacturing costs, it would cost millions of dollars to develop a cheaper alternative for patients. Thanks to patents and exclusivity rights pharmaceutical companies have for their insulin products, making generic forms is all the more complicated. And, because of the FDA approval process for “biologic” drugs such as insulin, getting such a drug to market is much more difficult and would take much longer.
Why is this a problem?
With prices so high, patients sometimes try to self-ration their insulin to stretch it out longer. But this can have serious health consequences, including blindness, loss of limbs, kidney failure, and even death. Because of the pressure put on their wallets, patients might not be able to acquire the amount of insulin they need.
How can patients take action?
Here are recommendations from U.S. News.
- Talk to your doctor about switching to a less expensive insulin. Make sure you’re taking the type of insulin that is best for you at the best price, and that your brand of insulin is covered by your insurance.
- Work with your local, state, and U.S. representatives to effect legislative change to better regulate pharmaceutical companies and streamline FDA approval of generic insulins.
- Get involved with patient advocacy groups, and work together to lower insulin prices. Patient-centered organizations are critical to effecting change.
- Never attempt to save money by cutting your insulin dose. Take your medications as directed. If you’re having trouble affording your medicine, talk to your doctor right away. Work to find a solution together.