Infographic: Diabetes drug costs rising at staggering rate

Diabetes drug costs are rising at a staggering rate, though it seems to stem more from competitor price-matching than from providing paradigm-shifting drugs. This ACHP infographic sums things up nicely.

Diabetes costs are rising at a baffling rate. While drug companies may argue that heavy costs for drugs like, say, Sovaldi stem from the fact that it’s curative, there’s no similar argument for diabetes. The drugs are the same. The costs just increase.

They’re staggering, actually, according to a new infographic from the Alliance of Community Health Plans. Here are some notable trends:

  • Costs rose 150 percent for six popular, brand-name diabetes drugs in the past five years. Two of these drugs rose in price more than 250 percent.
  • In 2012, the cost of treating diabetes was $245 billion
  • The spend on insulin and other diabetes medications is projected to rise 18.3 percent over the next three years – a rate that’s 60 times greater than the income growth rate of 0.3 percent across all households.

The internet’s awash in infographics on the rising cost of drugs – typically those in the infectious, rare disease and cancer realms. As with many of these price-oriented infographics, this is part of a campaign that rises awareness of drug costs – because insurers invariably bear the brunt of the drug costs.

But it makes a very salient point: These costs are rising at an unsustainable rate. Here are some other statistics highlighted in the ACHP infographic:

A May Bloomberg piece explained one reason for these cost hikes: Price-matching among competitors. It cites the case of blockbuster diabetes drugs Lantus and Levemir, that have been increasing their prices in tandem:

In 13 instances since 2009, prices of Lantus and Levemir — which dominate the global market for long-acting injectable insulin with $11 billion in combined sales — have gone up in tandem in the U.S., according to SSR Health, a market researcher in Montclair, New Jersey.

If the drugs themselves aren’t changing… why the cost increase? It’s called “shadow pricing,” and it happens across the pharmaceutical industry. And, as emphasized in the simpler ACHP infographics, Bloomberg says:

Rising prices are causing affordability issues for some diabetes patients and frustrating doctors. Many of the leading medications are forms of insulin, which after nearly a century of use, has no generic form as a low-cost U.S. alternative.


The ACHP points out that these costs place enormous pressure on several groups: