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. Human insulin ranges in cost between $25-$100 per vial. Insulin analogs mimic the effect of insulin in our bodies but are not chemically identical to human insulin; these drugs are often more expensive, ranging anywhere between $174-$300.
How Much Insulin Costs Without Insurance
Insulins cost between $25-$100 per vial, while human insulin analogs can cost anywhere between $174-$300. The most commonly used forms of insulin cost 10x more in the United States than in any other developed country (~$100 in the USA vs. ~$10 in most other countries).
Price per Vial of Insulin
Price Per Unit
Price Per Vial
|Humulin 70/30 vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)||$0.18||$182.18 per vial|
|Humulin 70/30 KwikPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)||$0.39||$116.84 per KwikPen|
|Novolin 70/30 FlexPen (100 iU/mL)||$0.12||$184.78 per carton of 5 pens|
|Novolin 70/30 vial (10 mL vial; 100 iU/mL)||$0.10||$96.02 per vial|
|Novolin R vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)||$0.09||$93.70 per vial|
|Novolin R FlexPen (3 mL; 100 iU/mL)||$0.10||$154.51 per carton of 5 pens|
|Humulin R vial (20 mL; 500 iU/mL)||$0.18||$1,817.56 per vial|
|Humulin R vial (10 mL; 100 iU/mL)||$0.19||$185.27 per vial|
|Humulin R KwikPen (3 mL; 500 iU/mL)||$0.24||$712.38 per carton of 2 pens|
Accessing Insulin at a Low Cost
Depending on the state, income, and insulin type, many uninsured may qualify for governmental assistance programs (e.g., Medicare) or patient assistance programs (PAPs). Still, others may not qualify and will have to pay for the full price of insulin. Considering that many people require several vials of insulin per month, the cost of diabetes management is exceedingly high, especially for those living without an insurance plan.
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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:
- Pharmaceutical & Insurance Companies
- The Government
- Generic vs. Brand Name
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 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.
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.
Source: Beyond Type 1
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 factors come to 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 $45 per month, members can get access to affordable urgent care visits, discounted prescriptions, and low-cost lab testing. Sign up today.