Insulin Prices Continue to Rise; Patients Unable to Pay

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Insulin Prices Continue to Rise; Patients Unable to Pay
Insulin Prices Continue to Rise; Patients Unable to Pay

People Diagnosed with Diabetes Report Being Unable to Pay for Medication

Currently, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes; however, for the approximately six million who have been diagnosed, access to insulin is a matter of life and death.

With the price of insulin more than tripling between 2002 and 2013 to more than $700 per patient, many patients in need of insulin are unable to pay for the live-saving medication. One federal lawsuit is accusing the three insulin manufacturers of conspiring to raise their prices. Not unexpectedly, all three drug makers—Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi—deny the allegations, according to CBS News.

The high price of insulin, coupled with increasing insurance deductibles has left many people diagnosed with diabetes and who rely on insulin facing very difficult decisions. Physicians are saying that, with no way to pay, patients are facing impossible choices, according to CBS News correspondent Anna Werner.

A cell phone video obtained by CBS News shows a physician speaking with her patient in the hospital because she was unable to pay for her insulin. Her physician asked her, “One vial of insulin costs how much for you?” The patient told her “One hundred and seventy-eight dollars.” This was the fourth time in a little over one year that the patient required treatment for a life-threatening diabetic coma.

“Patients come in and say I can’t afford to take it, so I’m not,” the physician told CBS News. She added that she now hands out free drug company samples of insulin so patients are able to remain on their lifesaving medication. “Patients are begging for samples because they can’t afford the insulin,” she said. “Not asking, you’re saying, begging,” Werner said. The doctor agreed, “Begging,” she said.

In another situation, a 74-year-old woman told CBS News that, on some months, her insulin costs her more than $300 a month, which is more than she is able to pay. “I must pay my mortgage,” she said. When she has to make a choice between the mortgage and the insulin, “It’s going to be the mortgage,” she said.

Investment research firm SSR Health reviewed insulin list prices from 2012 to 2016 for Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, which manufacture insulin and discovered that prices went up between 99 and 120 percent. In another analysis, SSR Health’s Richard Evans discovered a startling pattern. The prices for two of the key insulin drugs rose in similarly on 12 occasions between 2008 and 2014. “The two companies took price increases within days of one another, and the price increases were similar—even identical—to the percentage point,” Evans said.

“If you raise your price, and I raise my price to the same level, what am I saying to you as a company?” Werner asked. “Let’s keep going, or, I’m not going to fight you,” Evans responded.

Parker Waichman LLP has spent decades representing clients in drug and medical device injury lawsuits. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing an insulin lawsuit.

Analysis Reveals Insulin Cost Spike

Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) is calling for a federal investigation, alleging that Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi colluded on the prices. “Just coincidentally it happens that the three major suppliers of insulin seem to be raising their prices at the same exact time, at the same level. So I think you have to be very naïve not to believe there is collusion,” Sanders said, according to CBS News.

The drug makers deny breaking any laws. A Sanofi representative told CBS News that there is “strong competition” on price. Eli Lilly’s representative said it is “aggressively competing on net (or negotiated) price.” Novo Nordisk’s president wrote on the company’s website that, increasing list prices are meant to rebates and price concessions to maintain profitability, CBS News reported.

Senator Sanders wrote on Facebook that, “Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world…. Meanwhile, I and colleagues will be introducing legislation to significantly lower prescription drug prices in this country, allowing our people to purchase low-cost prescription drugs from abroad and having Medicare negotiate prices with drug companies.”

According to PBS, the cost of insulin has tripled from $231 to $736 per year, per patient between 2002 and 2013, according to a new analysis published by the JAMA Network. PBS points out that the increase reflects increasing prices for one milliliter of insulin, which increased 197 percent from $4.34 per to $12.92 during the same period.

“Insulin is a life-saving medication,” said Dr. William Herman, a co-author of the analysis and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “There are people with type 1 diabetes who will die without insulin. And while there have been incremental benefits in insulin products, prices have been rising. So there are people who can’t afford them. It’s a real problem,” he told PBS.

There have been prior efforts to track insulin prices; however, researchers explained that this is the first attempt to review national pricing data in this way for a long time frame. The findings are expected to add to the ongoing national debate concerning increasing costs of prescription medications.

Insulin Prices Continue to Rise; Patients Unable to Pay
Insulin Prices Continue to Rise; Patients Unable to Pay

Some physicians are saying that their patients diagnosed with diabetes and who are 60 years of age and older have difficulty paying for drugs, especially those patients who have trouble once they hit the so-called “donut hole” in the Medicare Part D program and are forced to cover costs themselves, PBS reported. “The cost of therapy is huge,” said Dr. Jane Bridges, a diabetologist in Vincennes, Indiana. “I have patients who tell me that they have to stretch out the use of their medicines.”

One author of the analysis—Philip Clarke, a professor of health economics at the University of Melbourne in Australia—wrote that, “High costs can lead to reduced compliance, but more importantly the cost-effectiveness of high cost therapies … should be assessed, so they produce a greater clinical benefit for the patient.” Other countries, Clarke noted, typically assess cost-effectiveness when setting prices for government-subsidized drugs.

Filing an Insulin Lawsuit

If you or someone you know is interested in filing a personal injury lawsuit involving insulin, contact Parker Waichman today. Our firm offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).