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Colorado Becomes First State to Limit the Cost of Insulin

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In an effort to ease price hikes that have left many people with diabetes scrambling to afford their insulin, Colorado governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law Wednesday that limits the amount Colorado residents will pay for insulin at $100 a month.

The state is now the first in the nation to pass such legislation. Under the new law, insurance companies cannot charge patients more than $100 for a 30-day supply of insulin, regardless of the amount or type of insulin they require. Insurance companies will pay any remaining amount over that.

The new law also instructs the Colorado attorney general to investigate insulin drug pricing to ensure there are adequate protections for consumers in place or recommend the protections that are needed.

The price of insulin, which is required to treat all people with type 1 diabetes and used by some people with type 2 diabetes, has skyrocketed in recent years. One vial of Humalog cost $35 in 2001 and $234 in 2013. Novolog cost $289 in 2013 and $540 in 2019, and Lantus cost $244 in 2013 and $431 in 2019. People with diabetes may need anywhere from one to six vials of insulin per month.

Reasons for the price increase include the cost, difficulty and lack of incentive for creating a cheaper generic; changes to insurance policies that leave patients paying more; a patent system that gives companies a monopoly around their drugs; and manufacturers’ efforts to compensate for the rebates they offer pharmacy benefit managers in order to get insurance companies to cover their insulin.

Insulin price hikes can be devastating to people’s finances, as well as dangerous to their health. Some people have begun rationing their insulin because they can’t afford the amount they need, which can be deadly. But as Mighty contributor Christiana Ares-Christian explained, sometimes that feels like the only option for survival. She wrote:

I don’t want to die (most days), and I certainly don’t want to put my husband through the stress and grief of finding my comatose (or worse) body. Rationing insulin isn’t a wise thing to do, but we do it to survive, ironically. We do it so we can afford to pay the rent, so we can afford to eat and keep the lights on, so we can get transportation to and from work so we can pay more money for life-sustaining drugs that are overpriced… I am angrier at the pharmaceutical companies and everyone who is complicit in them getting away with charging people upwards of $1,300 for something that they need to live.

Colorado’s bill was sponsored by state representative Dylan Roberts, whose brother had type 1 diabetes. Roberts’ brother died at 22 years old after having a diabetic seizure and falling, causing a brain injury.

“Colorado is leading the way with this measure, but this is just a first step,” Roberts told CNN. “We won’t stop until all the pharmaceutical companies and drug middlemen start taking more accountability and stop gouging patients with their high costs.”

For more insight into the diabetes experience from people who live it, check out these stories:

Getty photo by mhong84

Originally published: May 24, 2019
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