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BIG PHARMA POLITICS: Consumers pressure politicians to do something about rising drug prices. Read More

Increasing costs of insulin causes some patients to put their health at risk

Seniors Prescription Spending SoarsAs they do with all monthly costs, those in need of medication to survive factor the expense into their budgets. What happens when those costs quickly jump higher than your paycheck can handle? Do you sacrifice your rent, or your health?

Reuters recently reported that the cost of insulin, the important hormone used to treat diabetes, has nearly doubled over the last five years.

In 2012, someone with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, incurred annual average insulin costs of $2,864. In 2016, the average annual cost was almost double at $5,705. The drastic increase is forcing patients who cannot afford out-of-pocket expenses for insulin to ration their life-saving medication, the story said.

The new details stem from a Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) report, which also found that diabetes-patient spending was driven by higher insulin prices overall, and that average daily insulin-use rose only 3 percent over the same five-year period.

“It’s not that individuals are using more insulin or that new products are particularly innovative or provide immense benefits,” Jeannie Fuglesten Biniek, a senior researcher at HCCI, told Reuters

Drugmakers claim that they need to raise U.S. list prices of their medications to help offset the rebates they must offer to get them covered by insurance plans, but these findings continue to add to the anger around the U.S. having the highest cost of prescription drugs in the world.

In the last two years, major companies have limited annual price hikes amid growing pressure from the Trump administration and Congress. Recently, Democratic lawmakers sent letters to 12 drugmakers seeking information on price increases, including three top insulin manufacturers. They also introduced legislation intended to lower prescription medicine costs for consumers.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1.2 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, a growing problem linked to the obesity epidemic, is even more common and affects nearly 30 million people in the U.S. Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told Reuters that “Different actors want to make an example of insulin now and how its cost is a huge barrier for millions of patients.”

Have you ever had to ration medication because you could not afford the cost? Share your story with Voices for Affordable Health.