WASHINGTON — Fifteen years ago, a patient with diabetes might have paid $175.57 for a 20-milliliter vial of the long-acting insulin Humulin R U-500.

Today, he’d shell out $1,487 for the same tiny vial, according to wholesale acquisition cost data from Elsevier’s Gold Standard Drug Database.

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  • This needs to be handle at a much quicker pace. Peoples lives are at stake! With Jobs laying people off all over, people lose there insurances and can no way afford to buy much needed insulin. A type 1 diabetic that falls thru the cracks of insurance and trying to get government assistance can be their end of life, simple put. These prices have obviously been increased to line the company and stock holders pocket without any regard to these peoples live. Is that not a form of murder? I tried to speak with Eli Lilly Company yesterday to find out if they had any assistance programs for these people falling through the cracks. Their representative told me that there were non! This is a total lack of responsibility on the their part as a company!

  • Many strands of this useful story were also included in Hassan Minhaj’s show Patriot Act, episode called Drug Pricing, which aired around Feb 17, 2019. Seems like a useful reference.

  • Perhaps the USA could derive some insight into why prices are so high and rising so quickly by comparing prices in the US system to those in other countries. The comparison would show that the US model is far from the only way to do things.

    The UK has regulated prices (but no lack of choice for insulins: looks like the big firms still make money selling to the NHS). Insulin prices (to the NHS; patients pay nothing) have been flat for most of the last decade and are much lower than in the US (~$150/month typically). And that regulated price has not inhibited the big innovations in which type of insulins we get or in delivery systems (where the patients, if anything, got the big innovations faster than their US cousins).

    Were this any other market the key players in the US would be attacked by the competition regulator for monopolistic behaviour. IF anything in the USA the system aids and abets that monopolistic behaviour in healthcare.

  • I am 31 year diabetes medical study participant in the landmark DCCT/EDIC–collectively set the gold standard of diabetes care. The goal of researchers has been on improving health by delaying the onset & slowing the progression of complications. I was appalled by the greed of Big Pharma. A pharmaceutical rep (earning over $100k) called into talk radio explaining what they were doing to Epipen. She shamelessly continued to brag, “If you think that’s bad, just wait until you see what we do to the price of insulin”. All of this has been well planned & orchestrated. This is on the level of murderous war crimes. If I was judge, jury, executioner, I would remove their pancreas & islet cells, amputate a leg or two, take a kidney, & remove an eye of the guilty parties of Big Pharma & make them SUFFER. Their actions would set back progress by 30 years….all in the name of greed. This is their idea of job security.

  • Having jv diabetes for 45 years I’ve never seen such greed at the price of diabetics health. The government should interveen and take control. Sad but there is no other way.

  • Anyone who is fighting the scourge of diabetes can tell long stories of how frustrating the insulin market is. Payers demand huge rebates to force their insured onto a drug that may not be optimal for them. Those same payers capture the rebates by charging list prices to their insured, in the backdrop of ever higher deductibles and co-pays on the underlying policy. Or as my insurance company told me when asking for $4700 for a 90 day supply of basal: ” well, you have to hit your deductible” ($13000 on a $2100 per month premium). Diabetics live in a world where we spend more time and worry managing our insulin supply than managing our disease. This can’t be right and we can do better as a Nation.

  • As a doctor and a diabetic, I reject the idea that “everybody” is to blame here. The pharmaceutical industry is in control of how much insulin is produced, what small tweaks are made to earn new drug status, and how they price the drug. Insurance companies play a role in whether or not the cost is covered. And the regulatory agencies like the FDA and congressional subcommittees create the size of the loopholes for price changes. Consumers are certainly not to blame here: nobody goes to the doctor and says “Give me the most expensive insulin you’ve got. I want to pay more!”. Doctors, meanwhile, are often clueless as to the expense until we deal with uninsured patients.

    • I’m surprised the author didn’t blame patients with diabetes for having the disease in the first place. (sarcasm)

      The selfishness of corporate American is appalling. This is why we desperately need socialized medicine.

  • I’m just a consumer, not an expert, but my understanding is that Humulin R is only sold as U-100 in the United States and that U-500 is sold in some other countries (and would be 5 times as strong as U-100).
    Perhaps this has changed in recent times?

    • u500 insulin has been available in the US for decades, just hasn’t been readily utilized by most physicians.

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