Price of insulin prescription doubled between 2012 and 2016
Amanda Frost; John Hargraves
In honor of National Diabetes Month, our inaugural blog post focuses on a topic of particular interest to people with diabetes: the price of insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for the body’s ability to use sugar and prevent dangerously high and potentially deadly levels of blood sugar. Diabetics are unable to make enough insulin to support their bodies’ needs, and thus many are dependent on prescription insulin for daily blood sugar maintenance or to control occasional blood sugar spikes Recent reports by CBS News, Business Insider, Vox, the Washington Post, and others voice concern about increasing insulin prices. Using HCCI’s health care claims data, we found that the average price of an insulin prescription nearly doubled nationally between 2012 and 2016, with a lot of price variation across states.
The prices presented here are the average price of the average insulin prescription for individuals ages 0-64, covered by employer-sponsored insurance (ESI), and having been diagnosed with diabetes (either T1D or T2D). The data set is weighted to be representative of the ESI population at both the state and national levels. Average prices are calculated from the actual amounts paid for insulin prescriptions filled at either in-person or mail-order pharmacies; these may differ from publicly reported wholesale list prices. These allowed amounts do not reflect any discounts, rebates, or coupons, nor would they include insulin bought over-the-counter. The average insulin prescription in our sample averages about a 40-day supply. All metrics represent insurance claims for both brand and generic insulin; however, we found very few claims for generic insulin prescriptions. For more information about the dataset and the price calculation methodology, see the Methodology page on the HCCI website.