Insulin Prices: Prices for insulin injections have increased by nearly 1000% since 1999, from roughly $20 to more than $300 each vial. According to studies, after paying their rent and everyday costs, more than a million people spend nearly 40% of their income on insulin. 20% of people who need insulin injections in the United States may limit their medication by skipping doses or taking less than recommended. Serious side effects include amputations, heart disease, kidney failure, and eye problems might result from this. This article discusses insulin costs, the variables that determine them, and how you might cut your own insulin expenses.
Insulin Prices: How to Manage the Costs and Save
Why You Need Insulin
Insulin is produced in the pancreas, an organ next to the stomach. Type 1 diabetes occurs when someone’s pancreas cannot produce insulin, while type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t process the insulin that is available.56 Lack of insulin can raise blood sugar in the body, which, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, amputations, and/or blindness.2
Insulin Emergencies and Getting Help
If you are in urgent need of insulin, head to your local emergency department immediately. Skipping or rationing insulin doses can increase the chances of kidney failure, amputation, and death, even in younger people.4
All three major insulin manufacturers offer patient assistance programs, including emergency supplies. Their hotline numbers are:7
- Novo Nordisk: 1-844-NOVO4ME
- Sanofi: 1-855-984-6302
- Lilly: 1-833-808-1234
NeedyMeds, RxHope, American Diabetes Association, Inside Rx, and Mat.org are some non-profit organizations that could guide you to resources for maintaining your insulin.
Taking prescription insulin regulates blood sugar after meals or throughout someone’s day, depending on the patient. Skipping insulin doses or taking less than the recommended daily dose can be risky. This includes a risk of amputations, kidney failure, and death, even for younger people (who are also more likely to skip their insulin).4
The price of insulin can depend on the type of insulin and your personal needs.89 Insulin is normally measured in units. For example, eating 60 grams of carbohydrates might require six units of insulin.10 There are 100 units per milliliter (ml) of insulin, and vials of insulin usually measure 3ml or 10 ml.10
In 2018, the average price of a vial of insulin ranged from about $70 to $120, with some vials in the $300 to $400 range and others as high as $1800.89
The US federal government and 22 state governments have passed laws to cap insulin costs.11 For instance, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act capped insulin copays at $35 for those on Medicare, the health insurance program for people aged 65 or older, some people with disabilities, and people with severe kidney disease.12 State-mandated insulin copay caps can range from $25 to $100 a month. However, self-insured plans, like many plans chosen by employees at large companies, are excluded.
In March 2023, the drugmakers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi each announced they would be lowering the cost of their insulin products. These include price reductions for Humalog (Lilly), Lantus (Sanofi), and NovoLog (Novo Nordisk), and other insulins from each company. Each manufacturer also announced they would be capping out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 per month. Eli Lilly’s price changes will take effect by the end of 2023, and the changes for Novo Nordisk and Sanofi will go into effect on January 1, 2024.131415
Average Prices for Insulin
Some commonly prescribed types of insulin and their average prices per vial (300 units) are:16179
- Rapid-acting: Starts working minutes after injection, lasts up to four hours. Brand names include Fiasp and NovoLog; $120
- Short-acting/Regular: Begins working within 30 minutes and works for up to six hours. Brands include Novolin R, and Velosulin R; $90
- Intermediate-acting: Starts working about an hour after injection and can last for up to a day. Brands include Protaphane; $70
- Mixed: A combination of short or rapid-acting insulin and intermediate-acting insulin. Brand names include NovoMix and Mixtard; $100 to $110
- Long-acting: Takes several hours to begin working and lasts about a day; $90
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Factors That Affect Insulin Prices
Insurance and where you live can affect how much you pay for insulin.
Here are some ways insurance could affect insulin costs:
- Medicare beneficiaries: Copays of $35/month as of January 202312
- Private insurance plan holders:
- $25 to $100/month in states that have copay limit mandates for plans regulated by the state.18
- For states without mandates or for plans that are not regulated by the state (such as employee self-selected plans), prices can depend on your insurance plan’s prescription drug coverage and deductible.
- Uninsured: Cash prices can depend on brand, pharmacy, available discounts, and state mandates.
- Medicaid: States with Medicaid programs usually cover insulin but might limit brand names and specialty formulas.19
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