In the United States, the cost of insulin for the treatment of type 1 diabetes has almost doubled in five years, highlighting the national outcry provoked by rising drug prices, according to a new analysis shared with Good Medical.
A person with type 1 diabetes incurred annual insulin costs of $ 5,705 on average in 2016. The average cost was about half that of $ 2,864 per patient in 2012, according to a report that must be published Tuesday by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute. (HCCI).
The numbers represent the total amount paid by a patient and his health care plan for the drug and do not reflect the discounts paid at a later date.
The rising cost of insulin has led some patients to put their own health at risk.
In recent months, anecdotal stories of family members and patients have described rationing the life-saving drug because they could not afford the insulin-related costs. This has also led to protests in front of the insulin manufacturers' headquarters.
HCCI said the increase in spending was mainly due to rising insulin prices in general and, to a lesser extent, a shift towards more expensive insulin-based products. Average daily insulin consumption has only increased by 3% over the same five-year period, according to the report.
"It's not that individuals use more insulin, nor that new products are particularly innovative or provide immense benefits," said Jeannie Fuglesten Biniek, senior researcher at HCCI, and co-author of report.
"The use is pretty flat and prices are changing for both old and new products, which surprised me, the same products cost double," she said.
Drug companies say they periodically need to raise the benchmark price of their drugs in the United States to help offset the significant discounts they have to offer for insurance plans. Over the last two years, leading pharmaceutical manufacturers have experienced a limited annual rise in prescription drug prices, under increasing pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump and Congress.
HCCI, based in Washington DC, tracks insurance claims data on approximately 80 million people, drawing inspiration from the Medicare government plan for Americans 65 years and older and four of the largest health insurers in the industry: UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, which is now owned by CVS Health Corp, Humana Inc. and Kaiser Permanente.
The insulin report analyzed the commercial claims data of approximately 15,000 patients with type 1 diabetes who received at least one prescription for an insulin product during the year.
From 2012 to 2016, the average price of insulin rose from 13 to 25 cents a unit, according to the report. For an average patient using 60 units per day, the daily cost went from $ 7.80 in 2012 to $ 15 in 2016.
The findings come from a further outrage on the price of prescription drugs in the United States, the highest in the world.
This month, Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill to reduce prescription drug costs for consumers and sent letters to 12 drug companies asking for information on price increases. Among these were the three major insulin manufacturers: Eli Lilly and Co, based in Indianapolis, Danish manufacturer Novo Nordisk A / S and French Sanofi SA.
In October, the Minnesota Attorney General sued the three major insulin manufacturers and accused them of misleading prices. A class action lawsuit similar to the name of patients is pending in New Jersey federal court.
"Different players now want to give an example of insulin and its cost is a huge hurdle for millions of patients," said Rachel Sachs, associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
So far, in 2019, Sanofi had raised its prices from 4.4% to 5.2% on some insulins, while Novo Nordisk had increased its prices by 4.9% on some of its insulins. By January 17, Lilly had not raised the prices of her insulins.
Sanofi and Novo Nordisk said they could not comment until they saw the full report. Lilly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
About 1.2 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes, a growing problem related to the obesity epidemic, is far more common and affects nearly 30 million people in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. Although type 2 diabetes is treated with various other drugs, these patients may also become dependent on insulin as the disease progresses.
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