How much are rising insulin prices affecting diabetics?


The insulin crisis is currently one of the biggest scandals of the pharmaceutical market, as more than a million and a half people have type one diabetes. Type one diabetics require insulin to survive, so purchasing insulin is a matter of life and death. The cost of insulin has nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013, and as of 2019 prices are still increasing (American Diabetes Association).

The monthly cost of insulin for a type one diabetic is currently around $550 to $700, totalling up to $8,400 a year. For college students and other people on a budget, this isn’t a plausible expense (Diabetes Journal). For a family of type one diabetics, for example a mother and two children, insulin prices could reach a staggering $25,200 a year in insulin alone; This is not including the cost of other medical supplies, like blood test strips, that are not covered by health insurance. This has forced families to cross borders to Mexico or Canada in order to afford their insulin.

The average American income is about $60,000; families can spend up to 42% of their annual income before taxes on the life saving hormone (American Medical Association). This is currently crippling patients across the United States, both financially and physically, as families struggle to make ends meet. A dangerous consequence of the financial drain of insulin is ”insulin rationing” which is when diabetics try to stretch their supply of medicine by lowering their dosages, leaving people across the nation in diabetic ketoacidosis or dead (NPR).

Individual states are taking measures to help lower costs; Colorado recently announced a statewide price cap on insulin at $100 per bottle for patient co-pay (CNN). The measure is expected to spread throughout the United States, as multiple national campaigns have been started as of October 2019. One of these campaigns is the “Stand Up for Affordable Insulin,” a movement started and funded by the American Diabetes Association to bring awareness and change to the insulin crisis. The most famous campaign however, is the “#insulin4all” movement that spread like wildfire through social media platforms.

Concerns have been brought up with the main insulin manufacturers in regard to collusion, as the companies simultaneously drove up their prices. A case was made against the top manufacturers Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi going to trial mid February 2019. The case was, however, cleared. Hopefully, in the near future action will be taken against both the companies and failing insurance companies to provide some relief to families.