Report: Insulin prescription costs in Arkansas rise 54% over six-year period

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 894 views 

The average cost of an insulin prescription in Arkansas rose by more than 50% between 2013 and 2018, according to a new analysis by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI).

ACHI used insurance claims information within the Arkansas Healthcare Transparency Initiative to determine the annual average cost per insulin prescription in Arkansas. The average cost rose from $401 in 2013 to $617 in 2018, an increase of 54%.

“Many Arkansans are struggling to afford the medicines they need,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “There is evidence that some Arkansans have been taking less than their prescribed doses of insulin because of rising costs. This is troubling because for many with diabetes, access to insulin is a matter of life and death.”

Insulin is a hormone produced by the human body. Lack of insulin can lead to diabetes. Medications for insulin make up what the body cannot produce and curtail the physical complications that come with low insulin.

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes. In Arkansas, there were nearly 288,800 adults with a known diagnosis of diabetes in 2014.

Drug manufacturers have promised to do more to curtail costs of insulin, but the pace of change and lack of progress has angered lawmakers. At the federal level, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have filed legislation to rein in prices.

State lawmakers have also taken efforts to lower costs. Illinois and Colorado have capped insulin co-pays and costs, and other states have pending legislation to address the hot-button topic.

Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk announced plans last week to provide a free immediate supply of insulin to those who may be rationing it. Eli Lilly, whose top-selling drugs are diabetes treatment Trulicity and insulin Humalog, capped out-of-pocket insulin costs at $95 a month for commercially insured patients and has offered half-priced generic insulin and even free insulin in some cases, according to its CEO.

For purposes of ACHI’s analysis, the average cost of insulin includes the amount paid by the insurer plus the patient’s out-of-pocket cost, which varies based on the insurance plan. The cost does not reflect manufacturers’ rebates or coupons. The average days’ supply per prescription is 34.3 days.

The review was confined to insulin prescribed to patients with private insurance.