Insulin prices nearly doubled in 5 years, report says

The cost of managing diabetes in the U.S. is rising quickly, largely due to dramatic increases in the cost of insulin, according to a new report (PDF) from the Health Care Cost Institute.

Looking at health insurance claims from 13,800 to 16,200 people with Type 1 diabetes who use employer-sponsored health insurance, researchers found insulin spending per person in the U.S. was $5,700 in 2016, a 97% increase from $2,900 in 2012.

The average annual cost for individuals to manage their diabetes reached $18,500 in 2016, up from about $12,500 in 2012, largely due to increases in insulin prices.

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Examining the prices for every insulin product on the market between 2012 and 2016, researchers also found prices increased in all cases with a median price increase of 92%. Use of insulin rose about 3% over the time period examined. 

“We are frequently told that high drug prices are justifiable in order to promote innovative new cures, but the cost of insulin—a longstanding therapy that 1.25 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes rely on to live—has nearly doubled in the last five years, despite very little change in the underlying product,” Niall Brennan, CEO of HCCI, said in a statement.

The most common delivery method of insulin remains vials administered with a syringe (53%), which is a drop from $61 in 2012. Prefilled insulin pens are gaining popularity, increasing from 38% of use in 2012 to 46% in 2016.