People with diabetes are facing rising prices for lifesaving drugs
Among treatments for chronic conditions, diabetes drugs aren’t nearly as sexy as, say, Sovaldi, last year’s breakthrough hepatitis C drug that offers a cure for the chronic liver infection at a price approaching six figures.
Yet an estimated 29 million Americans have diabetes — about 10 times the number with hepatitis C — and many of them will take diabetes drugs for the rest of their lives. Cost increases for both old and new drugs are forcing many consumers to scramble to pay for them.
“Every week I see patients who can’t afford their drugs,” says endocrinologist Joel Zonszein, director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Many people with diabetes take multiple drugs that work in different ways to control their blood sugar. Although some of the top-selling diabetes drugs, such as metformin, are modestly priced generics, new brand-name drugs continue to be introduced. They may be more effective and have fewer side effects, but these advantages often come at a price. In 2014 for the fourth year in a row, spending on diabetes drugs was higher on a per-member basis than it was for any other class of traditional drug, according to the Express Scripts Drug Trend Report. Fewer than half of the prescriptions filled for diabetes treatments were generic.
“The cost of diabetes treatment has been increasing pretty rapidly,” says Glen Stettin, senior vice president for clinical, research and new solutions at Express Scripts, which manages the pharmacy benefits for many companies.
Last year the cost of Humalog, a fast-acting insul Continue reading