KSN investigates the high cost of insulin

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – After KSN reviewed the high cost of prescription drugs and how those vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, many of our viewers wanted to know whether we could find more cost-effective options for diabetics.

Since the age of eight, John Kerby has dealt with diabetes, and especially since college, the rising costs of drugs.

“I struggled mightily to afford some things,” said Kerby. “I had about a 10 or 11 month period where I didn’t have health insurance.”

In the last 10 years, the price of insulin has increased 300-400 percent. John is covered now, but even with insurance, the Great Plains Diabetes Clinic sees patients who can’t afford the co-pay costs of their insulin.

(“They do stretch out their meds and alter their doses so the insulin lasts longer,” said Lindy Childs at the center.

That’s a dangerous habit, says Childs.  Instead, she says patients should first discuss other options with their provider.

“Are there co-pay cards that could help? Is there a patient assistance program that might help? Do we need to prescribe a lower cost med so you can survive?”

Websites, like GoodRX.com, can also help you comparison shop for the best prices at local pharmacies.  Drug subsidies are available through the medical service bureau in Wichita for those at 150 percent of the poverty level or less. Plus, the non-profit puts patients in touch with other resources.

“If the client is approved for these programs, they could get free insulin for one year which is very, very helpful,” said Debbie Calloway with the Medical Service Bureau.

She says even volunteering for a research study could give diabetics the insulin they need for free. But, going without is not an option, says Lindy Childs.

“It’s not like this is something they can choose to take or not take. They have to have it, or they die.”

As for why insulin prices continue to rise, drug makers blame the high cost of research, and insurance companies for passing too much of the expense to their customers.

The people KSN talked with believe the only thing that will stop the increase is a huge public outcry, similar to what we saw over the Epi-Pen.