A recent wave of news reports has anecdotally discussed the human toll of when insulin proves too expensive for people with type 1 diabetes. Now, a non-profit has released a new report quantifying the recent spike in insulin costs in stark, numerical terms.
The Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) has released a large-scale study documenting a sharp increase in insulin prices that people with type 1 diabetes paid over a five-year period from 2012 to 2016. Researchers for the study found that people with type 1 diabetes paid $2841 more for insulin in 2016 than they did in 2012, on average.
Here are some key takeaway from the study:
-It focused on adults with type 1 diabetes who had year-round, employee-sponsored health insurance.
-Researchers analyzed data from 13,800 health care claims in 2012 and 16,200 claims in 2016.
-The price of standalone insulins on the market rose from $0.13 a unit to $0.25 a unit during that time.*
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-The researchers ruled out increased daily insulin dosage as the culprit for the increased cost. While the amount spent on insulin nearly doubled, the average person with type 1 diabetes used just 3 percent more insulin per day than they did in 2016, according to the study.
-The report does not directly rule out inflation as a factor for the rising cost of healthcare. However, inflation during this five-year-period was low, averaging 1.36 percent annually during this period.
-The researchers could not accurately factor in manufacturer rebates or coupons for insulin because information on those offers is not publicly available. However, the researchers did run a scenario in which rebates would defray 50 percent of the cost of insulin. In that scenario, people with type 1 diabetes still ended up paying $1,421 more on insulin in 2016 than they did in 2012.
-Rising insulin prices weren’t the only factor for increased healthcare costs for people with type 1 diabetes. It represented 47 percent of the total increase, and researchers found people with type 1 diabetes paid $6,027 more in 2016 for healthcare costs than they did in 2012.
In recent months, health regulators are beginning to examine in earnest whether insulin prices are being set fairly, and this report will likely add weight to their efforts. Several high-ranking members of Congress have begun to ask pointed questions to insulin makers or call for investigations of insulin drug pricing; FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned in a major speech that his agency will look at possible anti-competitive practices that might have barred the entry of cheaper generic insulin formulations; and the Minnesota attorney general has sued the major insulin manufacturers for using possible deceptive practices to set prices.
You can download the full report here.
*Afrezza insulin was excluded from the study because there were fewer than 200 prescription fills for this insulin during that period.