According to a study published on Monday, the price of insulin remains a barrier for many diabetic Americans who require the prescription.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that in 2021, approximately one-fifth of diabetic individuals in the United States skipped, delayed, or took less insulin than necessary to save money. This equates to approximately 1,300,000 persons or 16.5% of those who require insulin.
As per NBC, the findings were based on information from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey, a yearly survey performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that interviews tens of thousands of Americans about their health-related experiences. It was the first time the CDC had included questions about insulin use, despite the fact that skyrocketing insulin prices have been a worry for years.
“In the intensive care unit, I have treated patients with life-threatening complications of diabetes who could not afford this life-saving treatment.” “Dr. Adam Gaffney, a critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts, is the lead author of the study. “There is an urgent need for universal access to insulin without financial restrictions,” he stated.
The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, will set the monthly cost of insulin for Medicare recipients at $35 beginning on January 1. However, the law will exclude millions of Americans with private health insurance as well as those without coverage.
According to the latest study, these two groups reported the highest rates of insulin restriction. Those with public health insurance, such as Medicaid and Medicare, had the lowest rationing rates. According to the research, insulin rationing is more prevalent among African Americans, at 23.2%, than among white and Hispanic Americans, at 16%.
It was also found to be more prevalent among people with type 1 diabetes, at 18.6%, compared to those with type 2 diabetes, at 15.8% — a finding that Gaffney deemed particularly alarming, as people with type 1 diabetes who do not take their insulin as prescribed can suffer from a variety of long-term health complications, including diabetic coma or death.
Gaffney stated that the problem is the excessive list price of insulin. “We have enabled pharmaceutical companies to dictate the agenda, and our patients are paying the price,” he stated.
Eric Tichy, division chair of pharmacy supply solutions at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, stated that a few of drugmakers, including Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, control the insulin market in the United States. He stated that without generic competition, they are able to maintain high costs.
In addition, insulin products are not always interchangeable, so if a patient is taking, for instance, an Eli Lilly product, they may not be able to readily transition to Sanofi’s product. According to analysts, the government’s current skills to control medicine prices are limited.
According to Juliette Cubanski, assistant director of the program on Medicare policy at KFF, formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. needs new policies that “increase the affordability of insulin for people with poor insurance coverage or no coverage at all.” One strategy is for states and other entities to manufacture their own insulin, as California has indicated its intention to do.
Tichy is a member of the nonprofit pharmaceutical company Civica Rx, which stated in March that it will produce and distribute generic versions of insulin to customers for no more than $30 each vial and no more than $55 for every package of five pen cartridges.
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetics require two to three vials each month on average. Gaffney stated that a month’s supply of insulin could cost $1,000 or more for the uninsured and those with inadequate insurance coverage.
Cubanski stated that lawmakers could adopt regulations that target “evergreening,” the process by which pharmaceutical corporations make modest improvements to their goods in order to extend the duration of their patents.
Gaffney lobbied for policy measures to reduce the list price of insulin. The “most ambitious” plan he would like to see in the United States is universal health coverage without customer copayments. He would also like to see a policy that would permit the United States to pay the same lower prices for insulin as other nations.
He stated, “I believe we can accomplish something similar in the United States.” Clearly, this is a massive undertaking, but we must also reduce the rates paid by pharmaceutical corporations.