Cutting the cost of diabetes drugs

New products, more patient involvement can help reduce pricing

By Heather Drago, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

July 25, 2017 – One in 10 OPERS retirees counts on insulin to help manage their diabetes. The fast-rising cost of this drug has impacted 18,000 of our health care coverage participants who have the disease, but there are ways to cut costs to make the medication more affordable.

Insulin is used to help people absorb and process sugar in their foods. Its cost has risen as much as 300 percent in recent years. While insulin’s been around for nearly a century, and it’s standard protocol for treating people with diabetes, these costs keep rising.

Why? One reason is lack of competition in the pharmaceutical industry. Over time, insulin manufacturers have modified their drugs, making them more complicated to produce. This practice has resulted in higher prices in the marketplace for consumers.

However, there are “highly similar” products to insulin on the market, and they could have significant benefits to many people with diabetes.

One of them is Basaglar. It’s a long-acting insulin medication highly similar to the drug Lantus. And, next year, the pharmaceutical industry is expecting there to be a short-acting, highly similar alternative to the insulin drug Humalog.

These alternative drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so they undergo rigorous evaluation for safety and effectiveness.

Meanwhile, here are several tips for OPERS members seeking to reduce insulin’s costs now:

  • Talk with your doctor about insulin alternatives: This advice is especially helpful to those taking a long-acting insulin drug, such as Lantus or Levemir. Ask your doctor if Basaglar might be an option. You also might ask about using intermediate-acting insulin such as Humulin or Novolin N.
  • Shop around: Check out different brick-and-mortar pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies to see what price they’re charging. For instance, you might find that Pharmacy A charges $26 for one vial of Novolin N, while Pharmacy B charges $155 for the same dose.
  • Know your formulary: Make sure your insurer’s list of drugs has your insulin as a preferred, or covered, product, so you can pay less.
  • Take advantage of coupons: If you are pre-Medicare you might be able to find (through your doctor or pharmacist) a coupon that will help reduce the cost of your drugs.

4 thoughts on “Cutting the cost of diabetes drugs

  • August 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

    I don’t understand how to get to the actual blog—and by that, I mean the comments of members–from the page I’m on right now. Can you advise me somehow?

    • August 7, 2017 at 10:29 am


      The comments are always listed at the bottom of the blog entry. You don’t see any here (except this one) because we’re saving them to address in a future blog post on the topic of diabetes.

      –Ohio PERS

  • August 8, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Very sorry spouses are being eliminated from benefits


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