Dr. Hui Shao

Insulin Costs Rise But Mostly Not Paid For Out-of-Pocket by Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Hui ShaoDr. Hui Shao, MBBS, MHA, PhD

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? 

Response: 23.1 million people in the U.S. have diagnosed diabetes and 7.4 million regularly use one or more types of insulin. Spending on insulin accounts for a large portion of the costs associated with diabetes. Affordability of insulin has become a public health concern in recent years as high spending on insulin imposes a large financial burden on the national health care system and is associated with poor adherence and health outcomes.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In this study, we analyzed the recent trends in usage and total payments, and patients’ out-of-pocket (OOP) payments for insulin by type in privately insured Americans (MarketScan Claims database) 2003-2017.  We estimated total payment and out-of-pocket payment for a 30-day/yearly supply of different types of insulin and found that, on average, inflation-adjusted annual total payments for insulin increased yearly by around 6% ($153) between 2003 and 2012 and by around 13% ($592) between 2011 and 2017. Similar increase patterns were observed across insulin types.

The major driver for increases in average total payments for a 30-day supply of insulin were explained by increases in payments for existing products and not by changes in the market share of insulin types. In contrast, out-of-pocket payments increased only marginally, suggesting that the increase in insulin spending was not paid directly by the patient.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The average annual total payment increased substantially during the study period, from $1,982 per year in 2003 to $6,360 per year in 2017 (in inflation-adjusted in 2017$). Total payments for insulin have been increasing since 2003 but were at much higher rates after 2011. In contrast, annual out-of-pocket costs increased only marginally from $390 to $451 during the same period, suggesting that the sharp payment increases were not paid out of pocket by the patient. The payment increase occurred across all insulin types, suggesting a lack of inexpensive alternatives in the insulin market. Even for human insulin, the cheapest form of insulin, the average payment for a 30-day supply caught up with insulin analogs in 2017.                                               

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our study population is those with private insurance with the fee for service. Additional research is needed to help determine if similar spending patterns are observed in persons with other types of health insurance, especially those with high-deductible plans and those without health insurance.

Further research in this area could also help us determine the cause of rising insulin costs, and inform decision-making at all levels, which could reduce insulin cost, or slow the consistent increase in cost. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: There are no additional comments or disclosures. For more information about how the CDC works to prevent and control diabetes visit https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html.

 Citation: ADA 2019 abstract

Trend in Total Payment and Out-of-Pocket Payment on a Yearly Supply of Oral Antidiabetic Drug Types among U.S. Adults with Private Health Insurance from 2003 to 2016



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Last Updated on June 16, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD