March 13, 2019

Cost of insulin products rises sharply

Massachusetts residents with diabetes spent 50 percent more on insulin products in 2016 than they did in 2013, according to new data.

At a hearing with the Health Care Financing Committee Wednesday, the state Health Policy Commission is slated to present an analysis of insulin price trends it undertook as part of an examination of spending growth in prescription drugs.

A Massachusetts resident with diabetes spent an average $3,122 annually -- or $8.91 per day -- on insulin products in 2013, the commission found. By 2016, the average spend per person was $4,684 annually, or $13.42 per day.

The commission said data limitations restricted its analysis to that four-year window, but recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data "indicates that the price of common insulin products continued to increase in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Average annual out-of-pocket spending on insulin was $340 in 2016, with 18 percent of people paying more than $500, and 6 percent paying more than $750.

The hearing is part of an annual process to set a target against which state officials measure health care spending growth.

Health care expenditures in Massachusetts totaled $61.6 billion in 2017, representing 1.6 percent growth from the previous year. Hospital outpatient spending (4.9 percent) and pharmaceutical spending (4.1 percent) were the fastest growing categories, according to the HPC.

The commission said in its presentation that spending on prescription drugs has been among the fastest growing categories for multiple years, a trend that compounds the affordability challenges for patients with ongoing pharmaceutical treatment needs.

National health care spending is projected to grow more than 5 percent annually from 2017 to 2026, according to the commission, driven by prices, specialty prescription drugs, and aging of the population.

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