Insulin Costs Spike Upward; Will Generics Help?

048_Insulin_PricesThe two biggest insulin manufacturers have been raising prices on their products, according to a recent Bloomberg article.

Sanofi increased the prices of its insulin products by 10% to 15% percent, the second price increase in a year. Novo Nordisk, it’s main rival, increased the cost of its insulin offerings 8% to 10% in the second quarter, and analysts believe Novo’s price hikes aren’t over for 2013. It’s unclear from published reports whether those price hikes were directly passed on by pharmacies to consumers, although diabetes bloggers recently have been voicing concerns online about higher prices for insulin.

The price spikes come in sharp contrast to an expected 72% decline in the reimbursement rate for some mail-order diabetes care products, due to a new Medicare competitive bidding process instituted by the government, as previously reported in Insulin Nation.  That slash in the reimbursement rate is expected to drive down the prices for many basic necessities in diabetes care products.

In conference calls, officials with the drug companies reported that they were able to raise insulin prices because of a 1% to 2% drop in global spending on pharmaceuticals, according to the Bloomberg report. That spending drop allows more space in insurers’ budgets to absorb higher insulin prices.

Insulin costs are a huge burden for many people with diabetes throughout the developed world, and remain out of reach for many in developing countries, according to a 2010 Health Action International report. The price of insulin can vary wildly according to where you live, the report says. A one-day survey of insulin prices found 10 ml of insulin may cost from $1.55 a vial in Iran to $76.69 in Austria. Drug companies often offer discounts in developing countries, but the cost of insulin is still prohibitive for many people with diabetes in these countries.

It’s believed that, even in the face of rising profits, the major insulin manufacturers are aware that the development of generic insulin brands soon will cause a downward pressure on prices. In February, Mylan Inc. announced it would oversee the marketing efforts of generic insulin for Biocon, India’s largest biotechnology company, according to an Associated Press report.

Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.
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