Diabetic Lifestyle: Insulin Prices Skyrocketing

By: Sari Harrar

In 2015, doctors in the U.S. wrote more than 20 million prescriptions for Lantus and Lantus SoloSTAR, a preloaded injection pen—making this long-acting insulin America’s top-selling, brand-name diabetes drug with more than $8 billion in sales, according to the research firm IMS. What you may not know is that Lantus is an enormous money-maker for another reason: The wholesale price of a vial of Lantus has soared 513% since it was introduced in 2001.

But Lantus isn’t alone. Price tags for other types of the injectable insulin used by nearly 10 million Americans with diabetes have risen even more sharply:

  • The cost of a vial of the short-acting insulin lispro increased 585% (from $35 to $234) between 2001 and 2015. During the same time, the price of a vial of human insulin rose 555%, from $20 to $131, according to endocrinologist Irl B. Hirsch, M.D., a Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington.

  • Between 1987 and 2014, the wholesale price of a vial of Humulin U500 – a concentrated form of long-acting insulin that more and more people with diabetes are using to control blood sugar—rose from $170 to $1,200, according to Truven Health Analytics.

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