Which is awesome. It’s really nice to see people caring about insulin prices.
The JAMA study's data from which the news reports got their numbers is entirely correct and you should definitely read it if you get an opportunity (It's a study about type 2 diabetics. It didn't include type 1s). But I am concerned that the news reports have not clearly explained the meaning of JAMA's figures in a way that is relevant to the diabetics who actually take insulin (and their loved ones). So I'd like to set the record straight and help clarify the figures.
Well, I figure if you're gonna be pissed off on behalf of the diabetic(s) you love, I want you to be pissed off based on a more clear interpretation of the data.
The actual average price of insulin per insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic in 2013 was $2661.52, not $736.09, as many believe based on last week's news reports.
Wait, WHAT? Why am I saying the average yearly price of insulin in 2013 was $2661.52 and all the other news articles are saying it was $736.09?
Let me explain.
This JAMA study tells us that insulin cost an average of $736.09 per type 2 diabetic per year in 2013, This average cost is distributed across ALL diabetics, whether they’re taking insulin or not! But, only 29.2% of Type 2 diabetics actually take insulin. Do you know what this means?
It means that 29.2% of type 2 diabetics are absorbing 100% of the insulin cost.
Look, if you're an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic with a kick-ass health plan, your insurance company might absorb a good portion of this cost on your behalf. But, if you don't have a health plan, or if you have a high deductible before drug coverage kicks in, or if you pay a high coinsurance percentage, or if you're stuck in the donut hole, you might become desperate enough to start thinking about other less healthful options, such as rationing insulin by skipping doses (yes, this is actually happening, and it really shouldn't be) or using the cheaper but less effective insulins.
So sure, the study had numbers in it. And the numbers were correct. But the study didn't calculate the values that are most relevant to people who are going broke thanks to their insulin bill (which wasn't the purpose of the study anyway, so don't be mad at the researchers. They didn't do anything wrong).
So, here’s what’s actually relevant to us: The average cost of insulin for an insulin-dependent type 2 diabetic increased from $742.14 in 2002 to $2661.52 in 2013.
And guess what else. Prices have increased a LOT since 2013. Based on the published cash prices for insulin on GoodRX.com and using the JAMA study’s average figures for yearly insulin consumption in mL, an insulin-dependent diabetic on analog insulin (the good stuff that actually works) can expect their “average” insulin costs in 2016 to be anywhere between $2662 and $5459 or more per year. If you don't have a good health plan to cover these costs, you are screwed.
Here’s some extra math, for those of you who like math:
The JAMA study indicates that in 2002, the average price of insulin was $4.34 per mL, and that in 2013, the average price of insulin was $12.92 per mL. The study also indicates that in 2002, insulin-dependent type 2 diabetics took an average of 171mL per year and in 2013, insulin-dependent type 2 diabetics took an average of 206 mL per year.
So, if you care about a diabetic, and if you've been getting all pissed off about the price of insulin increasing but you haven't yet fully grasped how ridiculous the price increases are, just do the math yourself using the figures above, and then join me in my full blown rage, or cry, or shout expletives, or call someone and cry, or whatever.
And, if you haven't done so yet, go sign one of those change.org petitions! Because for pete's sake, we 'betics can't afford these disgusting insulin price shenanigans.