U.S. insulin prices higher than UK, Australia, Germany

Viral tweets claim US consumers pay several times more for insulin than other countries including Japan, UK, Canada and France. That’s right.

UPDATE: On August 12th, both the House and Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. The bill now goes to President Biden’s desk for signature, where it is to become law. The original story continues as follows:

The Senate recently passed the Anti-Inflation Act after a marathon session discussing elements of the budget bill that address climate change, taxes and drug prices. One of those elements was a $35 monthly price cap for insulin, which the bill originally provided for people with both government health programs and private insurance.

Senate rules stipulated that the cap on private insurers had to be approved by 60 senators — the bill as a whole needed just 50 votes to pass — but only 57 senators, all Democrats and seven Republicans, voted in favor. That meant the final text of the bill would not include the price of insulin for private insurance, but the price cap for Medicare patients.

Two viral tweets On the day the Senate bill passed, the average price of insulin in the US was compared to the average price in Japan, Canada, France, the UK, Germany and Australia. Both tweets claim that the US insulin price is $98.70, while the second highest insulin price on the list in Japan is $14.40 per unit.

Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use or store the glucose, or blood sugar, that it gets from food. In people with type 1 diabetes, the type that isn’t caused by diet or lifestyle choices, the body stops making its own natural insulin and requires insulin shots to regulate the glucose in the bloodstream and use it for energy . People with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. They sometimes need insulin shots so their body can use glucose for energy.

THE QUESTION

Are insulin prices in the US many times higher than in Japan, Canada, France, the UK, Germany and Australia as viral tweets claim?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, insulin prices in the US are many times higher than in these six other countries.

WHAT WE FOUND

The two tweets comparing the price of insulin in the US to prices in Japan, Canada, France, the UK, Germany and Australia both refer to a report by the research organization RAND Corporation that compares US insulin prices to prices in other countries . RAND Corporation prepared the report for the US Department of Health and Human Services.

In September 2018, RAND Corporation compared insulin prices among 33 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD is a collection of high-income countries that includes the United States. RAND found that the average gross manufacturer price for the average single vial of insulin in the US was $98.70, more than 10 times the average price of the same amount of insulin in the other 32 countries in the study combined.

Insulin prices for the six countries in the viral tweets were exactly as stated in the tweets. Insulin prices in Japan, which were the highest of the six, came in at $14.40. Insulin prices in Australia, the lowest of the six, were $6.94.

RAND found that the average US insulin price was more than four times higher than any other OECD country. Chile’s insulin prices, the second most expensive country, stood at $21.48 per unit. The lowest average insulin cost was recorded in Poland, where it was $5.28 per unit.

RAND Corporation said it used list prices set by drug manufacturers because they were the most available for comparison in different countries. Drug pricing in the U.S. is a complicated, behind-closed-doors process, the organization explained, in which drug manufacturers set high list prices and then compete with each other for insurance company business by offering generous discounts to insurance companies.

This system makes it difficult to track the final prices that patients actually pay at the pharmacy counter, RAND explained. Even after this rebate process, policyholders may still have significant deductibles and co-payments to pay, and those without insurance may end up paying full list price.

Data from GoodRx, an online prescription price comparison service, also corroborates RAND’s findings on the median price of insulin in the US, which found that a 3-mL pen or vial cost an average of about US$99 in 2018. cost dollars. The average price has come down slightly since then, and is now around $93, according to GoodRx data.

Other sources have also noted a significant discrepancy between US insulin prices and prices in other countries.

A November 2021 report by 3 Axis Advisors, a research firm focused on the prescription drug supply chain, confirmed Rand’s findings that the price of insulin in the US far exceeds prices in other countries. Of the 20 countries that 3 Axis Advisors compared, including three OECD countries included in the RAND Corporation report, several middle-income countries and several low-income countries, the average price of insulin in the US far exceeded the rest , even when he was broken down by different types of insulin drugs.

Andrew Mulcahy, one of the authors of the RAND report, told VERIFY in an email that insulin price ratios between the US and other countries are similar, regardless of how they’re calculated. He specifically cited measures by vial or cartridge, how RAND measures prices, and measures by units of insulin, such as GoodRx measures prices.

According to Health System Tracker, a partnership between healthcare nonprofits the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), about 1 in 4 individuals on individual or small group plans who take insulin paid more than $35 a month, the proposed price cap that failed to make the final account. About 1 in 5 insulin users with large employer insurance coverage paid more than $35 a month.

The Health System Tracker found that people with plans where the insurer pays a high percentage of the cost of a prescription drug rarely pay more than $35 a month for insulin, indicating that insulin affordability is in the US is heavily dependent on a person’s health insurance plan, if they have one at all.

More from VERIFY: No, Congress is not considering a $300 billion cut in Medicare

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Alley Einstein

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