Public Health

How Much Does Insulin Cost Without Insurance in 2023?

Spencer Lee
Spencer Lee20 Feb 2023

The cost of insulin has steadily increased over the past few years. This price rise is disproportionate to annual inflation. It poses a threat to people living with diabetes who cannot afford to pay for these increased prices but need insulin to survive. The retail price for insulin can be over $140 for a brand-name Humalog KwikPen; however, patients can now pay about $60 for generic insulin such as lispro KwikPen.

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How Much Insulin Costs Without Insurance

Retail prices for generic insulin lispro and insulin aspart are about half that of their brand-name counterparts, Humalog and Novolog. This is the same for generic mixed insulins, insulin lispro 75/25 and insulin aspart 70/30, compared to Humalog 75/25 and Novolog 70/30.

Retail Prices of Mixed Insulins

InsulinAverage price per insulin unitAverage price per dispenser or package
Insulin lispro/Insulin lispro protamine  
Insulin lispro 75/25 KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.22$65.74 per pen
Humalog 75/25 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.36$360.25 per vial
Humalog 50/50 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.39$393 per vial
Humalog 75/25 KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.47$141.84 per pen
Humalog 50/50 KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.48$714.87 per carton of 5 pens
Insulin isophane/insulin regular  
Humulin 70/30 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.18$184.64 per vial
Humulin 70/30 KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.40$119.42 per KwikPen
Novolin 70/30 FlexPen (100 iU/mL)$0.22$336.57 per carton of 5 pens
Novolin 70/30 vial (10 mL vial; 100 iU/mL)$0.17$169.01 per vial
Insulin aspart/insulin aspart protamine  
Insulin aspart 70/30 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.18$181.67 per vial
Insulin aspart 70/30 FlexPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.23$69.59 per pen
Novolog 70/30 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.37$367.69 per vial
Novolog 70/30 FlexPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.47$139.63 per pen

Retail Prices of Traditional Insulins

Novolin R and Novolin N are currently the cheapest traditional insulins. The average unit prices are about $0.10.

InsulinAverage price per insulin unitAverage price per dispenser or package
Humulin N (10 mL vial; 100 iU/mL)$0.22$185.04 per vial
Humulin N KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.39$117.85 per pen
Humulin R KwikPen (3 mL; 500 iU/mL)$0.24$720.73 per carton of 2 pens
Humulin R vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.19$189.16 per vial
Humulin R vial (20 mL; 500 iU/mL)$0.18$1,837.62 per vial
Novolin N FlexPen (3 mL carton; 100 iU/mL)$0.23$352.40 per carton of 5 pens
Novolin N vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.17$168.53 per vial
Novolin R FlexPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.24$361.09 per carton of 5 pens
Novolin R vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)$0.17$172.26 per vial

Factors that Influence the Cost of Insulin

Between 2001 and 2018, the average list price of insulin increased 11% annually. This equates to average annual per capita insulin costs nearing $6000. Since a patient's out-of-pocket costs are based on the list price, consumers have undoubtedly felt the burden of these price increases. 

Diabetes patients' need for insulin to survive is indisputably one of the largest determinants of insulin cost. Insulin and insulin analogs are the only drugs able to save the lives of diabetes patients; therefore, consumers' need for these drugs to stay alive gives way to high pricing for profits. In other words, since diabetic patients have no other options, they have no other choice but to pay the price that the stakeholders set. 

The three primary factors in the pricing of insulin vials are as follows:

  1. Pharmaceutical & Insurance Companies
  2. The Government
  3. Generic vs. Brand Name
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Pharmaceutical & Insurance Companies

The "Big Three" pharmaceutical companies that produce 90% of the insulin available on the market are Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi Aventis. Insurance companies will determine how much you pay out of pocket, depending on your type of plan and what cost-sharing policies are in place. 

For instance, those with more comprehensive insurance plans are likely to spend less than those with high deductibles. 

The Government

The government plays a role by regulating pharmaceutical patents and FDA approvals. Patent regulation is a key component of how insulin prices remain high because insulin patents are continually renewed by the government, preventing generics from entering the market to compete and thereby keeping prices high. As of 2022, the government has begun voting on introducing a price cap on insulin. The government passed a bill, that states Medicare recepiants will have a price cap of $35. For those who don't have Medicare, more affordable insulin is still being fought for.

Locate a drug discount program

You most likely won’t be able to apply these to your insurance, but your insulin could cost less if you only used a discount program such as Benefits Check Up and Needy Meds.

Generic vs. Brand Name

Like most prescription drugs, accessing prescriptions using the generic version will likely be significantly less expensive when compared to the brand-name drug.

When it comes to insulin, it's no different: retail prices for generic insulin lispro and insulin aspart are about half as expensive when compared to their brand-name counterparts, Humalog and Novolog. It's also the same for the generic mixed insulins, insulin lispro, and insulin aspart, compared to Humalog and Novolog.

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Insulin Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below we answer some frequently asked questions when it comes to insulin.

Are there generic versions of insulin?

In 2019, Eli Lilly released the first generic insulin, Insulin lispro, which is the counterpart to the popular rapid-acting insulin Humalog. Since then, the FDA has approved generic versions of Humalog (Insulin lispro), Novolog (Insulin aspart), and Novolog.

Why is insulin so expensive?

For the past few years, the price of insulin has skyrocketed — due in large part to the extended monopoly a handful of companies have over insulin manufacturing. 

While annual out-of-pocket costs are expected to rise with inflation, the annual price increases for insulin are disproportionate to overall inflation. Studies demonstrate that diabetes is the most expensive chronic disease in the United States, costing more than $327 billion in 2017.

Is it ok for me to skip insulin doses?

With the rise in insulin prices, the financial cost of diabetes is perhaps more serious now than ever before. While skipping insulin may seem like an immediate solution, rationing doses is not a proper nor medically advisable technique for diabetes management. In fact, skipping doses can lead to more serious diabetes-related health issues, such as diabetes ketoacidosis, costing the consumer more out of pocket in the long run. 

The Bottom Line

Many things come into play when it comes to the cost of insulin. While it can be costly, it's important to utilize ways to access insulin, such as patient assistance programs or Medicare. Another way to access affordable healthcare is using Mira. For an average of $45 per month, members can get access to affordable virtual and in-person urgent care visits, discounted prescriptions, and low-cost lab testing. Sign up today

Spencer Lee

Spencer is a Public Health & Biology undergraduate student at New York University.