Insulin, as many of you know, is ridiculously expensive, and the cost of some brands of insulin has risen over 500% in the last 10 years, which is ridiculous considering the growing number of people in the United States that rely on insulin to stay alive. As of September 2018, the cost of insulin ranged anywhere from $0.28 per unit to $0.83 per unit, which adds up pretty quickly depending on how many units of insulin you require per day. While I typically take 25-30 units per day, I’ve seen patients who required over 100 units per day, and that’s not to mention the cost of other supplies required to survive (strips, sensors, syringes, pump, infusion sets…etc.).
This rise in insulin prices is a huge barrier to health, and a rising number of people with diabetes have been forced at times to ration their insulin, increasing risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and death.
Earlier this year, US FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb released a statement, which detailed new measures designed to increase competition in the insulin market with the goal of reducing insulin prices. One proposed measure is to increase the availability of biosimilar insulins (think a kind of generic insulin), which would ideally reduce costs by increasing competition.
Around that time, Bobby Rush, a democrat from Illinois, introduced the Insulin For All Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, which aimed to increase access to insulin by eliminating the cost-sharing requirement for patients on Medicare and Medicaid. Cost sharing includes deductibles and copayments, so basically costs that must be paid out-of-pocket by individuals on Medicare and Medicaid. By eliminating these cost-sharing requirements, insulin could be covered in full by Medicare and Medicaid, greatly reducing monthly out-of-pocket costs for patients with diabetes on Medicare or Medicaid. Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t seem to have gained much traction.
Then in July this year the senate introduced a bipartisan bill known as the Insulin Reduction Act with the goal of creating a “new insulin pricing model.” While there has been an increasing effort this year to address the high cost of insulin, few bills have gained traction, and fewer still have received bipartisan support.
While there might be other pressing matters currently dominating the DC scene, there are still ways we can get involved, and advocate for affordable drug pricing.
How to get involved?
- Vote in both local and national elections. Yes, your vote matters! Find out how to register here.
- Reach out to your local representative. No matter what party you identify with and no matter what party they identify with, it’s still important to speak up about your concerns. As their constituent, your needs should matter. You can find your local representative here.
- Check out T1 International. They are a global non-profit supporting local communities and rights to access to insulin and diabetes supplies #insulin4all. They have some great resources for calling or writing your representative.
For more information on how you can get involved, Beyond Type 1 has a great list of resources for those who might be struggling to afford their insulin as well as those wanting to get involved in advocacy work.