By: Michael Hiltzik
Diabetes doctor Irl B. Hirsch has watched with dismay as more of his Seattle-area patients take life-threatening steps to deal with the soaring price of insulin.
Some need two vials a week of the crucial medicine, at $300 per vial. Many pay full price because they’re uninsured or enrolled in health plans with high deductibles. So they’re cutting back. “It’s becoming very, very common to see patients intentionally withholding their insulin,” says Hirsch, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Washington.
He also knows where a good share of the blame lies: on pharmacy benefit management firms. “They’re middlemen we thought originally would make the distribution of medications easier, and more efficient, and even cheaper.” he says. “But now they want a cut of the money, and over the decades, they’ve wanted more.”