Insulin prices up to 8 times higher in U.S. than other countries, study finds


Oct. 6 (UPI) — The price of the diabetes drug insulin is more than eight times higher in the United States than in 32 other high-income nations combined, according to a RAND Corp. analysis released Tuesday.

The average price per unit across all types of insulin in the United States is $98.70, which is just over six times the drug’s average price in Canada — about $15.70 — and just under six times the average price in Britain and Japan — about $16.70 — the researchers said.

And the average U.S. price is nearly 28 times as high as that of Turkey, which is about $3.60, they said.

“This analysis provides the best available evidence about how much more expensive insulin is in the U.S. than in other nations around the world,” RAND senior policy researcher Andrew Mulcahy said in a statement.

“Prices in the U.S. are always much higher than other nations, even if you assume steep discounts to manufacturer prices in the United States,” he said.

Insulin is used to control blood sugar levels in people with insulin-dependent diabetes. The drug is sold in many different forms, with different chemical properties and different duration of effects.

List prices in the United States have increased dramatically over the past decade, according to Mulcahy and his colleagues.

For example, the average U.S. wholesale-acquisition price for rapid-acting, long-acting, and short-acting insulin increased by 15% to 17% per year from 2012 to 2016, based on one estimate.

The RAND study used manufacturer prices for the analysis. Researchers compiled estimates of international insulin prices by examining industry data on insulin sales and volume for 2018, comparing the United States to 32 nations that belong to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Although the ratio of U.S. prices to other-country prices varied depending on the comparison country and insulin category, U.S. prices were always higher and often five to 10 times higher than those in other countries, they found.

The final, net prices paid for insulin is likely to be significantly lower than manufacturer prices in the United States because rebates and other discounts often drive down the price paid by individuals, according to the researchers.

Even if such rebates and discounts drive down prices by as much as 50%, however, the prices paid by U.S. consumer are likely to be four times the average paid in other high-income nations, they said.

U.S. prices were generally higher for analog versus human insulins and for rapid-acting rather than short or long-acting insulins, according to the researchers.

In May, the Trump administration announced that it had reached a deal with drug manufacturers to effectively cap insulin copays for most seniors on Medicare at no more than $35 for a month’s supply.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said that plans offering the new benefit will be available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, during open enrollment between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.

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