Americans pay much more for insulin than patients in other countries, study finds

October 6, 2020

A study found insulin costs in the U.S. are higher than in 32 comparison countries.

Americans are paying much more for insulin compared to residents of other countries, according to a new study.

The study, from the nonprofit research organization RAND Corporation, found that the average cost of insulin in the U.S. was $98.70 per unit. This price is greater than that paid by residents of 32 comparison countries ranging from 3.8 times higher than what is paid in Chile, to 27.7 times higher than those paid by residents of Turkey. The U.S. is also paying 6.3 times as much when compared to Canada, 5.9 times higher than Japan, and 8.9 times higher than patients in the U.K.

While the study used manufacturer pricing for the analysis, the final price paid by U.S. patients is likely much lower but even if such rebates and discounts drive prices down as much as 50 percent, the prices paid by U.S. patients are still likely to be four times the average paid by residents of other high-income nations.

“This analysis provides the best available evidence about how much more expensive insulin is in the U.S. than in other nations around the world,” Andrew Mulcahy, the study’s lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, says in a release distributed with the study. “Prices in the U.S. are always much higher than other nations, even if you assume steep discounts to manufacturer prices in the United States.”

List prices for insulin in the U.S. have seen dramatic increases over the past decade, with one federal analysis finding that U.S. wholesale-acquisition prices for rapid-acting, long-acting, and short-acting insulin increased by 15 percent to 17 percent a year from 2012 to 2016. A separate study found that among adults with employer-sponsored health insurance annual insulin spending per person doubled in the same period from $1,432 to $2,853 even after accounting for a 50 percent rebate, the release says.