Diabetes treatment can be very expensive. But the biggest cost (surprisingly) isn’t insulin

Millions of Americans with diabetes cheered because drug companies lowered the price of insulin, the life-saving drug that treats the chronic disease.

But those lower prices, which have come amid government pressure to reduce insulin costs and more competition from generic drugs and biosimilars, are just one part of the cost of treating the disease, which causes high blood sugar that can damage the heart, eyes and kidneys if left unchecked. are being treated. .

Over-the-counter medical supplies to monitor glucose levels and administer medications can make up the bulk of a patient’s costs. A 2020 JAMA Internal Medicine report found that children and adults with private health insurance spent more of their own money on diabetes-related supplies than on insulin.

said Dr. Carla Robinson, medical editor at GoodRx, a platform that helps people find the lowest prescription prices near them.

The cost of supplies “affects people much more than … insulin. It can influence the type of treatment they choose because supplies can be very expensive.”

Lower insulin prices: Determine the cost of insulin

How many people are affected by supply costs?

Of the 37 million Americans with diabetes, about 8 million use insulin but all of them must monitor their sugar levels. Add to that another 100 million adults with pre-diabetes who may need testing supplies.

There are two types of diabetes:

  • Type 1which is completely dependent on insulin.

  • Type 2which may or may not need insulin because you can take oral medications or lifestyle and diet changes to control it.

“One thing they have in common is that they all need to control their sugar in some way. A lot of people who never need insulin are affected, so that’s a big problem,” said Robinson.

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A mother checks her daughters for diabetes by monitoring her blood glucose.

How much might the supplies cost?

Typically, a person with diabetes who uses insulin will spend $4,882 per 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 annual expenses for disease management.

Cut costs: Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk cuts some insulin prices by 75%

Lifestyle change: The study found that people with diabetes lived longer on a low-carb diet and a vegetarian diet

What kinds of supplies do diabetics need?

It can vary depending on the type of diabetes you have, but here are some common ones:

  • Blood glucose meter (glucometer): A small, handheld device that uses a small drop of blood from a fingertip and gives glucose results in just a few seconds.

  • Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM): A wearable glucose monitor with a sensor placed under the skin that measures glucose 24 hours a day.

  • Insulin pump: An automatic insulin delivery device (AID), often used with CGM, responds to glucose changes.

  • Lancing devices and scalpels: It is used to prick fingers to check blood sugar levels.

  • Blood glucose test strips: Used in glucose meter.

  • Syringes and alcohol preparation pads: It is used to inject insulin.

  • Insulin pens: Portable and convenient alternative to vials and syringes for insulin delivery.

  • Sticky skin patches used with CGMs.

  • Infusion sets: A connection between an insulin pump and your body.

budget: More than 1.3 million Americans self-administer life-saving insulin because of the cost. This is “extremely worrying” to doctors.

Diabetes and weight loss: A study shows that a diabetes drug helps patients lose unprecedented amounts of weight

How can people reduce the cost of diabetes supplies?

You can ask your doctor for samples or suggestions, but here are different forms of help you can tap into:

  • BenefitsCheckUp.org: Seniors on low incomes can search by zip code for assistance with medication, health care, and other needs through the National Council on Aging service.

  • NeedyMeds.org: A nationwide organization that connects people to programs that help pay for medicines and supplies. You can search by medicine or manufacturer name.

  • Partnership for Prescribing Assistance: Helps people without prescription insurance coverage find their medications and supplies for free or at a low cost.

  • Patient Advocate Foundation: Nonprofit organization with a directory of organizations by state that specifically help patients cover the costs of diabetes care. Choose “diabetes” as a diagnosis on the website to search for help. The foundation also has a joint relief program for those in financial hardship who have insurance. Low-income diabetics can receive grants of up to $1,500 annually to cover medical costs.

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers: Community health centers may offer free or low-cost supplies to people with diabetes.

  • Rx communication: A nonprofit mail-order pharmacy that provides affordable medications to people in need through its website or by phone at 1-888-RX0-1234 (1-888-796-1234).

  • RxAssist.org: List of drug company assistance programs, state programs, discount drug cards, co-pay assistance and more.

  • Patient assistance programs: Companies often offer free or low-cost supplies to people with diabetes, depending on insurance status and income. If you need assistance with your pump or CGM supply, contact the manufacturer directly via their customer service number:

    • Medtronic: 1-800-646-4633

    • Tandem: 1-877-801-6901, option 3

    • Al Jazeera: 1-800-591-3455

    • Dexcom at 1-888-738-3646

    • Abbott Diabetes Care: 1-855-632-8658

Available resources are “helpful to know,” Robinson said, “but I’m hoping on a larger scale, we can get some more comprehensive legislative relief.” “People are picking up supplies and reusing single-use supplies, putting safety at risk. Just as we now finally get some relief from insulin, I’m hoping to get some relief for supplies.”

Medora Lee is USA TODAY’s money, markets and personal finance correspondent. You can contact her at [email protected] and sign up for the free Daily Money newsletter for personal financial advice and business news every Monday through Friday morning.

This article originally appeared in the USA TODAY: The Cost of Insulin Isn’t the Biggest Cost for Diabetics. What is it?

Diabetes treatment can be very expensive. But the biggest cost (surprisingly) isn’t insulin

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