If you’re not bothered by the price of insulin, then you may want to skip this article.
Still here? Thought so. The price of insulin almost tripled from 2002 to 2016, and it’s no longer just low-income families and those without insurance who struggle. Drug prices are much higher in the United States than in other countries, and people can pay as much as $400 to $500 a month for life-sustaining insulin.
The American Diabetes Association has asked congress to make diabetes a national priority. In 2017, people with diabetes spent an average of $16,750 on healthcare, which is more than a quarter of the national average household income. Something must change.
A branch of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Lilly Diabetes, is creating a new helpline, to go live on August 1, 2018, to help people find customized solutions to barriers to insulin. The dedicated helpline will be designed to help those with lower incomes, the uninsured, and those in the deductible phase of a high-deductible health plan. Operators will help callers find solutions to obtain Lilly insulins like Humalog and Humulin.
David A. Ricks, Chairman and CEO of Lilly, said, “While the current system works for many people, there are still gaps. That’s why Lilly is working with PBMs, insurance companies, advocacy groups and others to bring solutions to patients, and why we are advancing additional solutions today.”
This is an encouraging sentiment, but anyone who has had diagnosed diabetes for more than 18 seconds will probably want to see results before getting too excited. Here are the four ways the helpline will be able to offer help:
The Helpline Itself
The helpline will offer dedicated experts that can listen to a person’s specific circumstances and help them find an insulin solution. Operators should be subject matter experts able to help people navigate services in their area.
Lilly will donate insulin to relief agencies who will then distribute the drug to 150 free clinics around the United States. Helpline experts can help callers find clinics in their area and explain how to access them.
According to Lilly, “We are increasing our financial assistance for people who may need help paying for insulin. The helpline will use a suite of solutions to find answers for people who face the highest out-of-pocket costs…” The company promises individualized solutions based on people’s circumstances.
The helpline will also be able to offer immediate solutions. What exactly those solutions will be has not yet been announced. More information about the program, how to access savings, and the helpline’s phone number will be available on August 1, 2018.
We’re happy about the list above, but we wish the drug company would have included a fifth item: “lower the price of insulin in general.” Affordable insulin for everyone, now. It’s long overdue.
The cost of insulin is sometimes so prohibitive that people choose not to take their insulin, which at the very least increases the risk of health complications (which is the last thing people with diabetes need). In worst-case scenarios, people trying to stretch out their insulin supply can lose their lives, like Alec, who would have been 28 this year but passed away due to diabetic ketoacidosis after he aged out of his mother’s insurance plan.
We’re hopeful that this new helpline will provide a much-needed resource for many people with diabetes. Perhaps it’s a sign of more good news to come.
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.