Ever since I encountered a fiasco of attempting to get insulin last weekend (Humalog and Lantus), I have been looking into the absolutely horrid price attached to these valuable medications. Apparently, I am not the only one who objects to having to pay $900 for one months worth of my basal and bolus.
To answer the question I know you're wondering: Don't you have insurance? Yes, I do, but when I tried to get my insulin over the weekend, I was told the insurance card I carried was not activated. So, then I was given the option of paying $900. Thankfully, my insurance company told me it was certainly activated, just my prescription was at a pharmacy that was not in the network.
The last time I paid for insulin without having insurance cover it (you know, before the deductible was met) was five years ago. At that time, I paid $120 for Humalog and $110 for Lantus per month. When I was paying that, I would fondly remember when I only paid $80 per month for each type of insulin (Novolog and Humulin U) just five years prior to that.
Now, in my research during the past few days, I have come across a number of different articles stating different reasons for the criminal rise of insulin - research and development, supply and demand, lack of competition in the market. I have a theory as to why it is so expensive. Because it can be.
Insulin is an extremely valuable commodity. You need it to stay alive. People might complain about the cost, but you know what? They want to continue breathing, so they will shell out the money for it. They will choose life over the mortgage. They will choose life over a car payment. They will choose life over test strips. They will choose life over pet food. They will choose life over food to fill their bellies. Big Pharma knows this, but the more profit they can make, the better chances they have of taking that much needed vacation this summer.
I can take comfort in three things in this ugly situation. One - the patents on some insulins have expired. This will open the market for other companies to move in. Competition will drive the prices down.
Two - you can buy Novolin R and Novolin U over the counter at Walmart for $20. These are old school insulins. I took them for many years. I know how they work and I am comfortable with making a transition back to those if I have to. The control is not as good, but you still get your insulin.
Three - I was diagnosed in 1987. A carb to insulin ratio was consistently drilled into my head. I know how to make the adjustments of insulin dosages myself. A couple of my last endocrinologists were taken aback when I argued with them over insulin dosages and then I compromised by saying I would give their dosage a try, but when it failed, I would make the necessary adjustments myself. Because I have this knowledge, I know I can make my insulin last longer than a month.
I wish I had an answer to this problem, or a prediction as to how long it will last. All I know is that it is a dangerous path. I don't know of many diabetics who can afford that. The ones I do know are able to make necessary adjustments, but what about the ones who were not taught those skills? What are they going to do? Who is going to fight for them? Anyone?