Insulin is expensive. Really expensive. Like hundreds-of-dollars per vial expensive. Expensive enough that some diabetes patients can’t afford their monthly dose. And now Walmart, of all companies, is stepping in to make the drug a bit more affordable.
The retailer announced on Tuesday that it would be rolling out a budget version of analog insulin under its ReliOn label to adults and children with a prescription for the drug. Per Walmart’s announcement, these private-label insulin vials will be available for about $73 each—and pre-filled FlexPen needles for about $86 each—at any Walmart pharmacy starting this week, with a wider rollout to Sam’s Club pharmacies planned for mid-July. Considering how vials can cost anywhere between $150 to nearly $400 a pop, this could provide some relief for Americans.
Up until now, Walmart actually offered an even more budget-friendly insulin under the ReliOn label for about $25 a vial. But this cheaper version was based on an older, less-effective insulin formula that’s garnered a fair share of criticism from doctors and diabetes advocates. More recent formulas—the so-called insulin analogs, like Walmart’s new product—are more effective at preventing dangerous blood sugar swings among those with Type 1 diabetes, in particular.
Meanwhile, the number of people across the US with both forms of the disease will only continue to skyrocket. While there are slightly more than 34 million adults living with the disease across the country today, some researchers theorize that number could jump to more than 41 million by the time 2030 rolls around. And as those numbers keep climbing, so does the price of the insulin these people need to take to manage their disease. Recent numbers from the Health Care Cost Institute point out that the annual cost of insulin for people managing Type 1 diabetes in the US nearly doubled from $2,900 in 2012 to $5,700 in 2016. Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides have grilled insulin manufacturers over these sky-high prices but have done virtually nothing to help.