PBS NewsHour: The Insulin Market is Heading for a Shakeup. But Patients May Not Benefit

By: Rebecca Robbins

The insulin market, dominated by old drugs that have skyrocketed in price, is on the verge of a shakeup.

The first “follow-on” insulin for diabetics, similar to a generic medication for synthetic drugs, will hit the market in December. It’s expected to be followed in the coming months and years by a wave of new follow-on and “biosimilar” insulins that have the same protein structures as brand-name products.

Experts predict that these new insulins will carry lower prices — but it’s far from certain that the competition will drive down costs overall.

The stakes are high: About 6 million Americans with diabetes use insulin, either alone or in combination with an oral drug. The annual cost of insulin reached $736 per patient in 2013, up threefold since 2002. Diabetes medicines, including insulin, are the second most expensive category of prescription drugs, according to Express Scripts, the big pharmacy benefits manager.

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