Millions of Americans with diabetes have cheered when drugmakers slashed the price of insulin, the lifesaving medication that treats the chronic disease.
But those lower prices, which came about under government pressure to limit insulin costs and increased competition from generics and biosimilars, are only part of the cost of treating the disease, which causes elevated blood sugar levels that damage the heart. , can damage the eyes and kidneys if left untreated. .
Over-the-counter medical supplies to monitor glucose levels and administer medications can account for the majority of a patient’s costs. A 2020 JAMA Internal Medicine report found that children and adults with private health insurance spend more cash on diabetes-related supplies than they do on insulin.
“We’re glad insulin prices are capped and people are paying more attention, but that only tells part of the truth story of people living with diabetes,” said Dr. Karla Robinson, medical editor at GoodRx, a platform that helps people find the lowest prescription prices near them.
The cost of supplies “affects people much more than…insulin. It can affect which treatment they even choose, as supplies can be very expensive.
Decrease Insulin Prices:Covering the cost of insulin
How many people are affected by delivery costs?
Of the 37 million Americans who have diabetes, about 8 million use insulin, but they all need to monitor their sugar levels. Add to that another 100 million pre-diabetic adults who may need testing supplies.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type 1which is completely dependent on insulin.
- Type 2who may or may not need insulin because you can take oral medication or make lifestyle and diet changes to control it.
“One thing they both have in common is they all need to monitor their sugar in some way,” Robinson said. “Many people are affected who never need insulin, so this is a huge problem.”
Changing the outlook:FDA Approves First Treatment That Slows Type 1 Diabetes Why It Could Be Game Changing
Growing figures:The rate of diabetes among young people in the US is on the rise. This is why.
How much can supplies cost?
A person with diabetes who takes insulin typically spends $4,882 a year on treatment if they have insurance. Of that, $3,992 is spent on supplies, according to an analysis by GoodRx, or more than 80% of the annual cost of managing the disease
Reduce costs:Drug maker Novo Nordisk slashes some insulin prices by 75%
Lifestyle changes:People with diabetes lived longer on a low-carb and plant-based diet, research shows
What supplies do people with diabetes need?
It can vary depending on the type of diabetes you have, but here are some common items:
- Blood glucose meter (glucometer): A small, handheld device that uses a tiny drop of blood from a finger and gives glucose results in seconds.
- Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM): A wearable glucose monitoring device with a sensor that sits under the skin and measures glucose 24 hours a day.
- Insulin pump: An automatic insulin delivery (AID) device, often used with a CGM, that responds to glucose changes.
- lancing devices and lancets: Used to prick fingers to check sugar content.
- Blood Glucose Test Strips: Used in a GCM.
- Syringes and alcohol prep pads: Used to inject insulin.
- insulin pens: A portable and convenient alternative to vials and syringes to administer insulin.
- adhesive skin patches; Used with CGMs.
- IV sets: A connection between the insulin pump delivery device and your body.
Budgeting:More than 1.3 million Americans ration life-saving insulin because of cost. That is ‘very worrying’ for doctors.
Diabetes and Weight Loss:Diabetes drug helps patients lose never-before-seen amounts of weight, study shows
How can people reduce the cost of diabetes supplies?
You can ask your doctor for samples or suggestions, but here are several forms of help you can use:
- BenefitsCheckUp.org: Seniors on limited incomes can search by zip code for help with medicines, health care and other needs through the National Council on Aging service.
- NeedyMeds.org: A nationwide organization that connects people with programs that help pay for medicines and supplies. You can search by drug name or manufacturer name.
- Prescription Help Partnership: Helps people who don’t have insurance coverage for prescriptions find their medicines and supplies for free or at a low cost.
- Patient Interest Foundation: A non-profit organization that lists organizations by state that specifically help patients cover the cost of diabetes care. Choose “diabetes” as your diagnosis on the website to seek help. The foundation also has a copay assistance program for those in financial need who have insurance. Low-income diabetic patients can access grants of up to $1,500 per year for medical expenses.
- Federally Qualified Health Centers: Community health centers may offer diabetes supplies for free or at a discounted price.
- Rx Range: A not-for-profit mail-order pharmacy that provides affordable medicines to those in need through its website or by phone at 1-888-RX0-1234 (1-888-796-1234).
- RxAssist.org: A list of drug company aid programs, state programs, drug discount cards, copay aid, and more.
- Patient Tools: Companies often offer free or low-cost diabetes supplies, depending on your insurance status and income. If you need help with your pump supplies or CGM, please contact the manufacturer directly at their customer service number:
- Medtronic: 1-800-646-4633
- Tandem: 1-877-801-6901, option 3
- Islet: 1-800-591-3455
- Dexcom at 1-888-738-3646
- Abbott Diabetes Care: 1-855-632-8658
The resources available are “useful to know, but I hope we can get some more comprehensive legislative relief on a larger scale,” Robinson said. “People are rationing supplies and reusing single-use supplies, which compromises safety. Just as we’ve now finally got some relief for insulin, I’m hoping for some relief for supplies.”
Medora Lee is a money, markets and personal finance reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her at email@example.com and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter for personal financial tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.