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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  • Doctors aren’t prescribing older insulins for multiple reasons:

    1) Older insulins (Regular) do not work as fast as Humalog or Novolog. Having insulin that works fast is a huge advantage when challenged with keeping blood sugars under control.
    2) Most older insulins like Lente and Ultra Lente are no longer made. Insulin made from beef/pork or only pork have been gone for many years. As far as I know, everything made today has recombinant DNA origins.
    3) Beef/Pork insulin used to be really inexpensive, like less that $40/vial. Manufacturers do not want to sell inexpensive insulin. They want to gouge the insurance companies by completely eliminating the cheap stuff.
    I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for over 50 years now and have seen the entire progression. I’m grateful insulin was invented and I’m grateful that my insurance pays for it.

    minimal side effects, almost zero hypoglycemic incidents and they are not produced and developed using aborted fetal tissue and fetal cell lines!

  • Many commenters seem not to have read the whole article. Like this:

    “Right now, however, the biggest roadblock to a generic insulin may actually be regulatory.”

    Yes, companies want to make as much money as they can. But government regulation is harmful at least as often as it is beneficial. And oh yeah – then there’s the doctors who won’t prescribe the older versions, which were fine for years of use. Since they aren’t paying for it, they see no reason to talk to their patients about costs. Because that would take time – and time is money.

    • I didn’t read the other comments but I did read the entire article. I saw the issues you pointed out but I dare say that both these issues can be overcome—that is, there are avenues open to changing regulations AND to educating younger doctors regarding their apprehensions of older drugs.
      What stood out to me in this article was the information that one of the 3 insulin manufacturers had filed numerous patents for no other reason (in all liklihood) than to continuously delay generic insulin becoming available.

    • I agree with this. Why do I have to use old versions of insulin, let’s not be hasty and negotiate with the people who are doing this to us. I also agree with DCCT/EDIC Comment. I don’t want me or future diabetics to ever have to worry about affording the best insulin they have to date, and eventually god forbid a cure.

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