In­sulin prices in US re­main higher than most

Orlando Sentinel - - EXTRA HEALTH & FITNESS -

tiny tube in­serted un­der the skin and at­tached to a pump. Peo­ple with Type 2 di­a­betes still make in­sulin, but of­ten not enough. Some peo­ple with Type 2 di­a­betes also need to use in­sulin. with a branded prod­uct.

But the au­thors said that cur­rent in­sulin mak­ers have blocked the en­try to such prod­ucts by get­ting new patents based on things such as a new de­liv­ery de­vice.

Kes­sel­heim also noted that “in­sulin is a slightly more com­pli­cated mol­e­cule,” which makes de­vel­op­ing a generic ver­sion more chal­leng­ing.

He said that the mak­ers of in­sulin have be­gun sell­ing “au­tho­rized gener­ics” of their brand-name prod­ucts. Eli Lilly and Co. is sell­ing a generic ver­sion of their branded in­sulin Hu­ma­log for 50% less than the brand-name prod­uct, ac­cord­ing to Greg Kueter­man, a com­pany spokesper­son.

Kueter­man added that Eli Lilly doesn’t cur­rently have any patent-pro­tected in­sulins.

He said the com­pany is also cap­ping prices at the phar­macy for peo­ple with com­mer­cial health in­surance, and in­creas­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity for free in­sulin for those with very low in­comes.

Quinn Nys­trom, 33, from Bax­ter, Min­nesota, has Type 1 di­a­betes. She’s been work­ing with lo­cal and fed­eral elected of­fi­cials to im­prove in­sulin ac­cess and af­ford­abil­ity.

She’s helped lead three bus trips to Canada so peo­ple could buy more af­ford­able in­sulin. The same vial of in­sulin that she pays $340 for in the U.S. costs $30 in Canada, she said.

“A sin­gle vial of cur­rent ana­log in­sulin costs around $3 to $6 to make. There is no rea­son for that price difference be­tween the U.S. and Canada, other than that Canada holds down their drug prices with leg­is­la­tion,” Nys­trom said.

But she doesn’t see trips to Canada as a so­lu­tion to the in­sulin pric­ing prob­lem.

Nys­trom has be­come so frus­trated by in­ac­tion on the in­sulin pric­ing is­sue and the price of drugs in gen­eral that she’s de­cided to run for U.S. Congress, and has pledged that she won’t be tak­ing any drug or in­surance com­pany money for her cam­paign.

She pointed out that in­sulin pric­ing af­fects ev­ery­one, di­a­betic or not. “If some­one can’t af­ford in­sulin, they end up ra­tioning the in­sulin they have,” Nys­trom said. That leads to com­pli­ca­tions that send peo­ple to the hos­pi­tal, which ends up cost­ing far more than the in­sulin would have.

Some politi­cians have in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion to help con­tain the cost of in­sulin, with vary­ing suc­cess.

Of­fi­cials in Colorado passed a bill that lim­its out-of-pocket co­pays to no more than $100 a month for in­sulin.

Sev­eral fed­eral bills have also been in­tro­duced, in­clud­ing by pres­i­den­tial can­di­date El­iz­a­beth War­ren. “War­ren’s bill would de­velop a gov­ern­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity to pro­vide lower-cost in­sulin,” Kes­sel­heim said.

Cigna, a large pri­vate in­surer, has lim­ited monthly co­pay­ments for in­sulin to $25.

REED SAXON/AP

The av­er­age price of in­sulin in the U.S. nearly tripled be­tween 2002 and 2013, ac­cord­ing to an American Di­a­betes As­so­ci­a­tion study.

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