New study finds insulin rationing incredibly common and incredibly dangerous

November 9, 2022

More than 1.3 million American adults with diabetes ration their insulin – meaning they skip doses or take less than their physician prescribes.

The reason? Cost.

That’s according to a new study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed data from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey.

They found that 16.5% of adults with diabetes depend upon insulin. Going without the drug has severe health consequences, shortens life expectancy and can even be fatal.

Still, of those adults who need insulin, the study found:

  • 11% of Medicare-age adults rationed
  • 20% of younger adults (18-64) rationed
  • 20% of middle-income earners rationed
  • 15% of low-income people rationed

Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, told ABC News that people are delaying buying insulin, increasing the risk of running out. Others are skipping doses or cutting doses in half.

“All are dangerous,” she said.

Recently passed federal legislation, which takes effect in 2023, will cap monthly insulin costs at $35 for patients on Medicare. But that doesn’t bring immediate relief to others, with or without health insurance, who struggle to cover insulin costs that could range as high as $1,000 per month.

Do you or someone you love need insulin but struggle to afford the cost? Share your experience with Voices for Affordable Health.