Millions of Americans with diabetes have cheered as drugmakers slashed the price of insulin, the lifesaving medication that treats the chronic disease.
But those lower prices, which came amid government pressure to cap insulin costs and more competition from generics and biosimilars, are only one part of the cost of treating the disease, which causes elevated blood sugar that can damage the heart, eyes and kidneys if untreated.
Over-the-counter medical supplies to monitor glucose levels and administer medications can make up the largest portion of a patient’s costs. A 2020 JAMA Internal Medicine report found that children and adults with private health insurance spent more out-of-pocket on diabetes-related supplies than on insulin.
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“We’re glad insulin prices are capped, and people are paying more attention, but that only really tells part of the 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 “impacts people much more so than ... insulin. It can affect what treatment they even opt for because supplies can be very expensive.”
Lowering insulin prices: Capping the cost of insulin
Of the 37 million Americans who have diabetes, about 8 million use insulin but all must monitor their sugar levels. Add to that another 100 million pre-diabetic adults who may need test supplies.
There are two types of diabetes:
"One thing both have in common is they all need to monitor their sugar in some ways,” Robinson said. “Many people are affected who don’t ever require insulin, so this is a huge issue.”
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A person with diabetes who uses 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 expense of managing the disease
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It can vary depending on what type of diabetes you have, but here are some common items:
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You can ask your physician for samples or suggestions, but here are various forms of help you might tap:
Available resources are “helpful to know, but I hope on a grander scale, we can get some legislative relief that’s more comprehensive,” Robinson said. "People ration supplies and reuse single use supplies, which compromises safety. Just as we have now finally gotten some relief for insulin, I hope for some relief for supplies.”
Medora Lee is a money, markets, and personal finance reporter at USA TODAY. You can reach her at [email protected] and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Diabetes treatment can be incredibly costly. But the biggest cost is (surprisingly) not insulin2023-03-19T11:06:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd