Insulin Affordability Crisis: Price List for the US Versus Other Countries

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that has affected 422 million people all over the world, and from the looks of things, it has come to stay. With the body not being able to produce enough insulin, people rely on artificial insulin in the form of injections to control their blood sugar.



In the US, more than 7 million people need insulin daily. However, the retail price of insulin has skyrocketed over the past decade. Legislators are debating solutions to the problem, but it is unclear who is most affected by insulin costs.

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Statistics record an increase of more than 200% between 2007 and 2018. If these prices are compared with those of other countries all over the world, insulin is 7 to 10 times more costly.

People with little or no insurance at all pay up to $1000 every month, especially if their dosages are increased. This leads to what public health physicians call “catastrophic spending.”People end up not having enough to eat and spend on priority needs.

A study in 2019 records that 25% of insulin users forfeit a dosage or two frequently, and this is more prominent in low-income individuals.

Why are the prices of insulin so high in the US?

When Eli Lilly and Company introduced Humalog (their brand of insulin) into the market in 1996, a vial sold for $21. Now it is over $140, and it keeps rising.

Two years ago, the Senate Finance Committee analyzed the price margins of three major insulin manufacturers in the US, and they discovered that the price of one brand of insulin that people used regularly had gone up to $101 in just five years, while the price of another had gone up to $159 in the same time frame.

In retrospect, the reasons for this price increase are not straightforward. Insulin production involves a complex chain of manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, health care plans, and even the doctors who prescribe them. Determining the source of the increase is usually a hard nut to crack.

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Some people say the high cost might be due to the fact that pharmaceutical companies modify their products once in a while. This serves to keep their patent running for a longer period of time. These modifications may involve tweaking a molecule or changing the delivery approach, for example, vials to pens.

Extension of patents discourages other companies from producing generic drugs and encourages production companies to charge whatever they like. On the other hand, if more people make the drug, it becomes less valuable in the market.

Currently, three companies dominate the insulin market: Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk, and Eli Lilly. They produce almost all the insulin products consumed in the US—well, until a few years ago. They still hold monopolies over certain products, and no regulations have been set up to curb this.

The major reason, I strongly believe, for the constant increase in the price of insulin is the presence of people who would buy the drug anyway, regardless of the cost. People are vulnerable, and the need for survival fuels the need to pay anything for only a small vial.

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Comparing the US with other countries

The costs of insulin in other developed countries compared to the US have remained affordable and constant over the years. A study carried out by the RAND Corporation compared the average cost of various forms of insulin in different countries, and the US came out on top with a rate of $99 per vial, followed by Chile and Mexico with $21 and $16 per vial, respectively. Here is a rundown of each country’s unique cost per vial:

  • US: $99
  • Chile: $21
  • Mexico: $16
  • Japan: $14
    Switzerland: $12
  • Canada: $12
  • Germany: $11
  • South Korea: $10
  • Luxembourg: $10
  • Italy: $10
  • Netherlands: $10
  • Ireland: $10
  • Estonia: $10
  • France: $9
  • Spain, $9
  • Finland: $9
  • New Zealand: $9
  • Latvia: $8
  • Belgium: $8
  • Czech Republic: $8
  • Portugal: $8
  • Austria: $8
  • Lithuania: $8
  • Norway: $8
  • Sweden: $8
  • UK: $8
  • Slovenia: $7
  • Australia: $7
  • Slovakia: $7
  • Hungary: $6
  • Poland: $5
  • Turkey: $3

The cost of humulin in India is about $16. It is $3 and $39 in South Africa and the Philippines, respectively. The rates in Russia span between $2 and $12.

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Outrageous insulin prices and subsequent rationing of the drug by consumers occur in the US but are not uncommon in other nations. The government should make policies that will help control the cost of insulin. Doctors should also have information on drug stores where patients can get insulin at cheaper rates. This is particularly beneficial for low-income earners and patients without insurance.


The High Cost of Insulin in the United States: An Urgent Call to ActionRajkumar, S. VincentMayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 95, Issue 1, 22 – 28.

Insulin is an extreme financial burden for over 14% of Americans who. (2022, July 5). YaleNews.



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