Study shows dramatic increase in Arkansas insulin prices

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The drug that people who live with diabetes rely on to survive is becoming more and more expensive. 

This is a nationwide issue, but here in Arkansas, a new study finds a dramatic increase in insulin prices in the last five years.

It’s been reported nationally that several drug types have been rapidly increasing in price, but Dr. Joe Thompson, President and CEO of Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, said they wanted to dig a little deeper on a drug that’s been around for decades.

“We picked insulin because it shouldn’t be changing that much,” he said. 

More than 30 million Americans live with diabetes and are dependent on this one life-saving medication. 

Thompson said insulin has been around for a long time treating this common condition. 

“Insulin has been around for decades to help diabetics whose pancreas is not creating insulin to stay alive by controlling glucose,” he said. 

Thompson said a recent analysis by ACHI, conducted by data from the Arkansas Transparency Initiative, discovered that the average cost of insulin prescription in Arkansas rose by 54% between 2013 and 2018.

“This is a prime example of an old drug for common conditions that there is no justification for a 54% increase over the last five years,” he said. 

According to the study, in 2013, people were paying $401 a year for an insulin prescription and that skyrocketed up to $617 by 2018.

Thompson said this is extremely problematic. 

“We have individuals across the state who are not able to afford the drugs that they need and we need to understand exactly why the prices are going up and where that money is going,” he said.

These looming questions are why Thompson, along with state legislature and the Arkansas Commissioner of Insurance, are trying to track the cost of insulin from the pharmaceutical company to the pharmacy benefits managers that bought the drug to the pharmacy that then sells it to the patient. 

“Somewhere along that chain is a 50% increase for insulin and we want to know where, why, and who benefited,” he said. 

Thompson said he believes this is a national issue and that Congress needs to take action immediately because he is concerned more people are going to start rationing their insulin.

“As prices go up, people that are on fixed income are faced with: ‘Do I spend my money on my medicines or on food or rent?'” he said. 

Thompson said the rising price of insulin is an ongoing debate across the country that patients, advocates, and doctors are fighting to unveil.

“It is a black box that, intentionally, the pharmaceutical industry does not want to have light put inside of it, but we are hopeful we can shine light and find out where this money is going,” he said. 

Thompson said as community members, you can do two things to help. 

First, have conversations with your pharmacists about your medications and their pricing structure. Second, be actively engaged with our Congressman to make sure your voice is heard. 

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