The cost of Insulin

A bit of a rant…

Why is a bottle of insulin so expensive? This story explains some of it. Then at the bottom there is a link to Henry Waxman’s Access to Life Saving Medicine Act. In many countries, Insulin of various types is inexpensive based on the US standard of income. If we could go there and purchase it, it would cost us nothing…but the overseas flight.

What happens when the cost of insulin as a percentage of total income monthly is 30-45%? This happens now in many poorer countries, and price creep here in the US is setting what I see as an alarming trend towards it being a fact here as well. There are places where children diagnosed with diabetes are allowed to DIE because the family would literally starve as a  whole to keep the sick child alive.

My employer provided insurance plan (which is generally amazing and very much appreciated) offers 90 day prescriptions. Each time I fill a script for either or both of my two boys, it is wrong. I have to take everything out of the bags and count it, and compare it to the list. I feel the insurance companies OR pharmacies skim my order, but I digress that point. Yesterday, when trying to fill a single 90 prescription for Insulin pens for my eldest son, it was refused because the prescription cost was ‘over $1500.00’. Think about that. This is 1 of 11 prescriptions I fill for my sons. Uncovered, it is $500 per month. He takes two types of Insulin, and I would have 10 more scripts to fill EVERY month. I earn a decent salary, but if these meds were out of pocket, we would be living in a van down by the river, or I would be robbing pharmacies to get meds for my kids.

Our health care system right now serves only Big Pharma, and Big Insurance. They have the game so locked up that the prices are high enough for them to make a set margin no matter what the coverage. With a single payer, non-profit system and legislation that forces patent busting in these specialized cases( allowing generics to be produced and distributed cheaply), everyone with diabetes OR other daily, chronic illness that REQUIRES meds to keep them alive would be within reach of anyone with any full time job. When all this bullshit about those opposed to national health care hits CNN in the next news cycle, think about what you would do with no insurance and a child who needed $1000 worth of meds a month. Now think about the meds being $50-75 due to generics. Better?

If you think you get pissed about gas being $4.00 a gallon, think about having to choose between $4.00 gas and keeping your children alive with insulin at $500 per month. Now think about not being able to afford gas, so you can’t go to work. Now, you lose your job, and have to carry the full cost of scripts. A mess.

Life saving medicine needs to be cheap and plentiful, and this needs to happen ASAP.


  1. Great blog. I’m at this point now. I want to know why Humalog is so much cheaper in Canada, than in the USA where the company is headquartered. Why if you have insurance, that supposedly covers all diabetes, is there a cap on the prescription end of it? Why these same people who are adamantly against national health care, are the first to say your son needs to go on medicaid. Are you freaking kidding me? If everyone did that, the system would implode and the fall of social security would be a self fulfilling prophesy… Just make it a little bit easier to live with chronic diseases. Don’t make my son have to skimp on his insulin, and court complications…. When do the drug companies and insurance companies have enough profits???

    1. Well, it depends on which type you use…My sons use N, which is about $77 per bottle…If you use some of the older formulas, you can get them at Walmart and other places much cheaper…I have an excellent insurance plan, but I worry for those who do not have this coverage, such as my sons when they are out form under my umbrella…

  2. listen, theres a simple way to fight this. Be smart. spend 80 bucks on a bottle of insulin at walmart, or, go online and get a bottle for 35 bucks. get test strips far cheaper than at stores. it cost like 80 bucks for 50 free style test strips. online, i got 100 for 58 bucks. Theres nothing you can’t get on the internet. nothing.

  3. I use Novo Nordisk novolog and levimir. All in the flexpens. A months supply sets me back around 400.00. On top of that, I test my bloodsugar 6 to 8 times a day and the strips cost close to a dollar a strip. I was told by a doctor to switch to lilly brand insulin as it was cheaper but found it made me feel like vomiting and after further research, found that it has lead to weight gain in many. I cant get a health insurance that will cover Novo Nordisk. Not to mention that I have to get prescriptions on my insulin and thats about 75 to a 100 dollars. I am curious if anyone has ever tried to sue the FDA for making it so difficult and expensive to purchase insulin. They, (to my knowledge) have yet to approve the manufacturing of generic insulins. If my math is right, on medicine alone I have spent 114,000.00 dollars in the last 19 years and if I live another 40, I will spend another 280,000.00
    I can imagine now why there still is no cure.

  4. My wife takes 2 different types of insulin also. We do not have insurance. We pay roughly $150 per vial ($300) per month. Ya it would be nice for $50-75 a month per vial.

  5. I am in the “donut hole” of Medicare perscription drug coverage since April 1; largely because of the cost of U 500 Insulin. This insulin is manufactured in the US by Eli Lilly—talk about monopoly being illegal!!! This 20ml bottle costs $618 abottle with no insurance. Wihen in the donut hole it costs me half that. I use slightly more than a bottle every 30 days, so I’ve shelled out roughtly $3500 in 6 months just on my insulin! I’ve had to borrow this money cause I’m only on SS. Last Dec I remember paying $197 a bottle and now it’s up to over $300 in less than a year. I’ve been told I’m not eligible for extra help—my SS amt is just over cutoff for help.Anyone else in this predicament? Any suggestions how to afford this? (Oct 8, 2012)

    1. This is an old post, so I will just tell you what I know. You can contact the companies directly and explain your situation. Many will send samples, etc. Another option is to try to switch to one of the Norvo insulins, but, I understand why you may be reluctant to do this. Honestly, the whole thing is a shit sandwich. I think for life sustainng medication, here should be special rules and subsidies. We subsidize milk. Fuel. But keeping people alive? meh. Also, many cardiologists are now treating diabetes due to the high risk of heart disease, and therefore, get visits from drug reps, therefore, getting samples. Call some Docs, see what you can get. I know an Indian doctor who loads up on Insulin when she visits home, cause it is about a dollar a bottle.

  6. Thank you for the suggestions. I think only Eli Lilly manufactures U 500 in the US? I asked them for help last year and they said I wasn’t eligible. Will try the Indian suggestion. Am worried about the purity of products from say China and even India but since I know some Indians personally, I will try that route. Many thanks for having this blog.

  7. I went to the pharmacy today to get my Lantus solostar and the price was $431 for five pens and I paid a $20.00 co-payment. This reduces my balance everytime I get this insulin by $410, so I’ll enter the second stage by November and have to pay 50% of $431, but can I afford it? No! This may be a conspiracy between the pharmacies and the doctors because surely they can prescribe something cheaper for their patients. I want some cheaper insulin, so I’ll ask my doctor to change my insulin or I’ll change him for another doctor.

  8. I think this whole thing with insulin is crazy and is all wrapped up with the insurance company’s and drug reps they all suck it would be different if was there child

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