Rising costs of insulin forcing local families to pay hundreds out of pocket

As insulin prices continue to skyrocket, some people are being forced to choose between the life-saving medicine and feeding their families. (Image: WTVC)

As insulin prices continue to skyrocket, some people are being forced to choose between the life-saving medicine and feeding their families.

On Monday, we spoke with a local pharmacist who says there are certain things that led the three companies that manufacture it to patent the medicine.

The three major companies that manufacture the different types of insulin continue to place patents on them. Dr. Phillip Smith with Access Pharmacy in Hixson says this prevents any new generic brands from being released, forcing people to pay hundreds out of pocket even with insurance.

"The problem with that is a lot of the new ones can't have generics yet because of the patented system," says Dr. Smith.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), "Of great concern to the ADA is the recent surge in insulin prices - the average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013."

One young man here in Chattanooga says the price of the medicine is something he and his family have worried about for a long time.

"I hit next - this is just confirming I want to give myself all this insulin," says Nicco Bein as he shows us the buttons he presses on his insulin pump.

Bein is a current UTC student, and says he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 18.

"Coming from not having diabetes to treating the lifestyle the way you eat and how you have to think about everything - how you eat and your activities - it's definitely a little bit different," says Bein.

He says like most people, he lives his life to the fullest even if that means worrying about the cost of the medicine he requires to do so. Right now, he says he's under his mother's insurance.

"Out of pocket, it still kind of gets expensive. On average I'd say it's about $300 a month for supplies," says Bien.

At Access Pharmacy, Dr. Smith says the first reason for the high price tags are the high costs it takes to manufacture it.

"They're expensive to make. They're biologics, so they require a lot as far as getting approved by the FDA," says Dr. Smith. "All the insulins are expensive, the newer ones are quite a bit more expensive though."

He says there are manufacturer's coupons available online on the manufacturer's (Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi) websites.

With no generic brands available to the public, Dr. Smith says it makes people like Nicco Bien pay hundreds out of pocket each month.

Although the costs are high, Nicco says it's a necessity. In order for him to use his insulin sparingly, he says he tries to make healthy decisions.

"Staying really active is something I've tried to do more and more to keep that down myself without having to use much insulin," says Bien.

Insulin can cost anywhere from $150 to even $400. It all depends on different factors, such as your health insurance and the type of insulin you use.

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