The cost of insulin, crucial in the treatment of diabetes, more than doubled (and, in fact, nearly tripled) between 2002 and 2013, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The average price of insulin increased 197 percent, from $4.34 to $12.92 per milliliter, during the study, which examined the medical spending of 27,878 people with diabetes from 2002 to 2013, Reuters reported
. Annual spending on insulin per person rose from $231.48 to $736.09.
Costs of other drugs also increased during that time, but total spending on insulin was greater than the combined total of all other drugs.
"The large increase in costs can largely be explained (by) much greater use of newer types of insulin known as analog insulins," said senior author Philip Clarke, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, according to Reuters. "While these drugs can be better for some patients, they are much more costly than the human insulin they replaced."
The average annual amount of insulin used per patient also rose during the study period from 171 milliliters to 206 milliliters, Medical News Today reported
. That increase could be due to changing recommendations for treatment and an increase in the number of obese and overweight patients.
The study suggests that an examination of the types of drugs used to treat diabetes is needed.
"Although the newer, more expensive insulin analogs appear to have incremental benefits compared to older, less expensive insulin preparations, their premium price requires us to ask whether they are really necessary, and if so, for whom?" said study coauthor Dr. William Herman, a professor of internal medicine at the Medical School and of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at Michigan, according to Medical News Today.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America along with manufacturers Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk said that the list prices for drugs don’t match the reality of what is paid because of rebates and patient-assistance programs, PBS Newshour reported
David Kliff, who publishes Diabetic Investor, said prices are unlikely to affect patient outcomes.
“Very few patients pay out of pocket for cost of insulin. So I don’t think prices truly impact the patient pocket book. There’s only a small percentage who don’t have insurance or enough insurance,” Kliff said, according to PBS Newshour.
But others disagree. Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief medical officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, told Reuters that the risings costs have concerning effects on patients.
"I can tell you from seeing patients myself that there are many who can’t afford their insulin and don’t take it or take less of it and they’re worse off for it," he said.
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