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article imageCost of insulin for diabetics more than doubled in past decade

By Karen Graham     Apr 6, 2016 in Health
With the growing number of people diagnosed with an elevated blood sugar or diabetes, the cost of the hormone insulin, one of the most important drugs needed to treat the disease, has risen nearly 200 percent between 2002 and 2013.
Even though the cost of other medications used to treat diabetes have also increased, total spending on insulin in 2013 was greater than the combined total of all the spending on the other medications, researchers reported in JAMA.
"The large increase in costs can largely be explained (by) much greater use of newer types of insulin known as analog insulins," said senior author Philip Clarke, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, according to Reuters. "While these drugs can be better for some patients, they are much more costly than the human insulin they replaced."
Researchers from the University of Melbourne and the University of Michigan used data obtained from the federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey that contains information on 28,000 diabetic patients and insurers covering care and costs between 2002 and 2013.
The study revealed some interesting results. Fox News is reporting that among the patients using insulin to control their blood sugar, the actual amount of insulin used went from 171 milliliters (mL) in 2002-2004 to 206 mL in 2011-2013. Additionally, the average price of insulin increased 197 percent, from $4.34 to $12.92 per mL during the same period.
Tech Times reports the annual cost of insulin for an individual patient rose from $231.48 to $736.09 over the study period. However, by 2013, the average cost of insulin per-patient was greater than the per-patient combined spending on all other diabetic drugs, which amounted to $502.57.
The cost of oral diabetes drugs (known as DPP-4 inhibitors), such as sitagliptin and linagliptin, rose 34 percent between 2006 and 2013 while the price of one pill of metformin actually fell by 93 percent between 2002 and 2013.
The researchers warn that the price of insulin is not expected to go down because of the regulations and costs involved needed to bring comparable products to the market. But for people with Type 1 diabetes, insulin is absolutely needed to keep them alive, and often, it takes several injections a day.
People would be surprised at the number of diabetics, that because of cost restraints, either don't take the required amount of insulin needed to control their blood sugar or go without, much to their detriment.
"In the United States, the more than [threefold] increase in the cost of insulin over the past decade is alarming. It is a burden to both patients and payers and may deny some people access to a life-saving therapy," said Dr. William Herman, co-researcher from the University of Michigan.
This study, "Expenditures and Prices of Antihyperglycemic Medications in the United States: 2002-2013," was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April 5, 2016.
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