What If You Can’t Afford Your Insulin?

If you have diabetes and your doctor has prescribed insulin, you know how expensive this medication is. You’ve probably seen the news, which has been full of stories recently about skyrocketing prices.

In fact, retail prices for the most commonly prescribed, newer insulin drugs have left some people unable to pay for it. According to a recent survey of pharmacies for current drug costs, the retail prices for popular brands range from $200 to $550 for one 10ml vial or a box of three pre-filled pens with 5ml. Some people with diabetes need several vials or boxes per month.

So what do you do if you can’t afford your insulin? Explore these options:

  • Talk to your health-care provider. If your problem paying is temporary, talk to your medical team. They may be able to provide you with enough samples to help you through a short-term situation or direct you toward assistance from a prescription assistance program. If your inability to pay is long term, your physician may be able to switch you to an older, more-affordable type.
  • Check with your pharmacist. Pharmacies may offer a discount. If you use insulin pens, find out the cost of using less expensive vials and syringes instead.
  • Look into drug company patient assistance programs. Most drug companies have a patient assistance program to help offset the cost of their drugs. You may be able to get a low- or no-cost copay, coupons that offer a percentage off, a flat-rate cost for refills, or in some cases your medication may be free if you meet specific qualifications. The American Diabetes Association and the Affordable Insulin Project maintain detailed lists of prescription assistance programs.
  • Switch to older insulin. If you have been prescribed a newer brand-name insulin, talk to your physician about switching to an older insulin, which is available at very low cost. There’s one caveat: Older insulin requires you to monitor your blood sugar more closely and be careful about dosing. Older insulins also have been associated with increased risks of low blood sugar and weight gain. But they are a viable alternative to newer expensive brands.
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