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Analysis

U.S. Insulin Prices 8X Higher than Average of 32 High-Income Countries

By John Commins  
   October 06, 2020

The average price per unit across all types of insulin in the U.S. was $98.70. Other countries pay a fraction as much.

Insulin prices in the United States are more than eight times higher in the than in 32 high-income nations, a new RAND Corporation study shows.

The average price per unit across all types of insulin in the U.S. was $98.70, higher than each of the 32 comparison countries, from 3.8 times higher than Chile to 27.7 times higher than Turkey.

U.S. prices were 6.3 times higher than Canada, 5.9 times higher than Japan and 8.9 times higher than in the United Kingdom, according to the study, which was commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The researchers relied on manufacturers' prices in the analysis, and acknowledged that the final, net prices paid by consumers are lower than manufacturer prices in the U.S. because of rebates and other discounts.

However, even when rebates and discounts cut prices in half, U.S. consumer are still likely to pay four times the average paid in other high-income nations, the study found.

"This analysis provides the best available evidence about how much more expensive insulin is in the U.S. than in other nations around the world," said study lead author Andrew Mulcahy, a senior policy researcher at RAND.

"Prices in the U.S. are always much higher than other nations, even if you assume steep discounts to manufacturer prices in the United States," he said.

A federal review of insulin price hikes found that the average U.S. wholesale price for rapid-acting, long-acting, and short-acting insulin increased by 15% to 17% per year from 2012 to 2016.

Another study found that insulin spending per person among adults with employer-sponsored health insurance doubled between 2012 and 2016, from $1,432 to $2,853 even with a 50% rebate.

It's not just consumers who are stuck paying higher prices. Medicare paid $8 billion for insulin in 2017 and one study found that the Department of Veterans Affairs could save about $4.4 billion a year if it was allowed to negotiate lower prices on insulin.

U.S. insulin is made mostly by Eli Lilly and Co, Novo Nordisk A/S, and Sanofi SA.

The study found that U.S. prices were higher for analog versus human insulins and for rapid-acting rather than short or long-acting insulins.

U.S. prices were even higher when researchers compared pooling similar insulin products together, which the researcher said indicates that the U.S. uses a more-expensive mix of insulins.

   

“Prices in the U.S. are always much higher than other nations, even if you assume steep discounts to manufacturer prices in the United States.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

U.S. prices were 6.3 times higher than Canada, 5.9 times higher than Japan and 8.9 times higher than in the United Kingdom.

The study used manufacturers' prices, and researchers acknowledged that the final prices paid by consumers are lower because of rebates and discounts.

However, even when rebates and discounts cut prices in half, U.S. consumer are still likely to pay four times the average paid in other high-income nations, the study found.


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