Since the sharp rise of insulin began a few years ago, numerous articles have been printed containing interviews with market analysts, doctors and pharmaceutical
representatives. They all say that the price is disheartening, but there is a good reason behind it all and that there is hope on the horizon. What do the Type 1 diabetics say? They need this precious medication to live. How is this effecting their lives?
If the health insurance is adequate, the effects are not as significant, but the knowledge of prices is ever present. Many of them know that without insurance, the acquisition of insulin is extremely difficult. Some have had to make changes to their household budgets to buy insulin. Some have had to make changes to their medications.
Kathy Eikmeier of South Dakota (Full disclosure: Eikmeier is this writer's aunt.) has had Type 1 for 35 years and she has had to make such changes, the biggest of which was switching from Lantus to Novalin N. "The Lantus was about $450 per month. That equaled about one-third of my take-home pay," Eikmeier stated. "The Novalin is much less expensive, but my blood sugar control is not as tight."
Currently, Eikmeier is also taking Novalin R. While it is an older type of insulin, the price is still $240 for her and Novalin N costs $70. "I am certain that the drug companies are just doing all they can to make a killing on insulin before their patents run out."
Shock and horror is what Eikmeier said she felt when she noticed the price increase trend eight years ago and was unsure if she would be able to get any insulin at all. Unfortunately, she does not see the trend coming to an end. "The drug companies will tie up any competition with legal actions," she said.
Meghan Hulbert of Florida has not had to make as many changes to her medication, and is still paying a pretty penny. A Type 1 diabetic for 10 years, she noticed the trend eight years ago. On a popular combination of Novolog and Lantus, she pays $850, when three years ago the price was $300. Since ObamaCare was implemented, she said the price has more than doubled. "My initial thoughts were: Survival of the fittest - they want to kill us off," said Hulbert. "The prices will continue to go up - getting rid of people based on what they cannot afford to keep themselves alive."
While Hulbert has not had to switch medications, she still had to make changes in the amount she takes and in her diet. "Some months, I only take one, so I get up at night to take Novolog. I've changed my diet - never heavy and eating very low carb."
Unfortunately, the price jump has taken a toll on other aspects of her budget. Hulbert said she does not go out very much because she has to pay for insulin. She cannot afford to do anything.
Like Eikmeier, Hulbert does not foresee an end to the trend. She said billions are generated off of diabetics and if a generic version of insulin would be created, she would take it. Even if that meant she had to take more of it.
But, not all Type 1 diabetics are feeling the pinch as badly. David Goodman, Jr. of Texas is one Type 1 who has adequate insurance, but that has not always been the case. He's on Novolog and pays $6.60 per month for it. However, he's on Medicare Complete and has a low income pharmacy card. During the past 25 years of his 45 years of Type 1, he has noticed the increase in insulin prices and in the past, he had to do "a lot more things" to earn the money needed before he would ask for help in paying.
"The price of insulin will continue to go up," said Goodman. "This is a win-win for the industry. Diabetics can't live without insulin and they can charge whatever they want because we need to have it."
For more on this story, see Part 2 (later today).