Changing insulin prices a part of larger conversation around prescription drug costs

Person with diabetes checking their blood sugar. | Photo Date: 2018
Person with diabetes checking their blood sugar. | Photo Date: 2018(Source: Pexels via MGN)
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 8:12 PM EST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - In his State of the Union address on March 1, President Joe Biden called for a price cap on the cost of insulin at $35 per month, which more than eight million of the 35 million Americans with diabetes require and Type 1 diabetics need to survive. He made a similar call for cutting the cost of all prescription drugs.

Currently, the price of insulin ranges between $300-$600 for vials and thousands of dollars per pack for insulin pens. The average price has continued to rise substantially over the last 15 years.

“We have one couple in mind, right now,” said Rachel Lacroix, pharmacy technician and Ray’s Pharmacy vice president. “They’re on a fixed income. It’s brand preferred on their insulin, and they have to decide when they’re going to get their insulin. So sometimes they go two weeks without their insulin because they can’t afford it.”

Though insulin is typically covered by insurance, many companies require customers to purchase brand-name insulin products, rather than generic products, which are a fraction of the cost. That demand can cause difficulties for consumers, making them reach their deductible far sooner than if they had bought the generic product, resulting in more out-of-pocket expenses.

Lacroix said lowering the cost of insulin would not just mean lowering the cost of the drug at the point of purchase.

“It’s not just the actual cost of what it is to be on our shelf,” said Lacroix. “So, maybe it costs us $200 to have it on our shelf. Well, I can’t give it to you for $35. So, who’s going to cut that cost down? So, the manufacturers going to have to say, ‘Okay, well, so I can only charge $35 for this medication. Well, what happens to the rest of that money? Are these big companies just going to take this loss?”

Lacroix also emphasized the difficulties local pharmacies have in providing drugs like insulin to customers at an affordable rate for both the customer and the pharmacy itself.

“I want people to have their medication. That’s what we’re here to do,” she said. “We want people to have the medications they need. We want them to take them like they’re supposed to. And we don’t want them to not be able to. You know, like, we can’t sell things at a loss. So, when the insurance company isn’t covering the whole cost of the medication, we can’t dispense things when we’re losing money. That’s a hard conversation to have, too.”

Ultimately, Lacroix believes there needs to be legislation to address all drug costs, not just a federal mandate or decision on one, like insulin. To do that, though, she pointed consumers to speak with their legislators and urge them to pass legislation that works towards that effort.

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