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Health Report: Affordable access to insulin for Fairbanks residents

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 4:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Walmart has announced that they will be selling a more affordable insulin at a fraction of the cost.

According to Dr. Muhammad K. Ahmed, an Endocrinologist with the Tanana Valley Clinic, insulin costs for diabetics can reach thousands of dollars. “A vial retails for $175 to 300 and a person with diabetes can end up using 2 to 3 vials. So sometimes insulin becomes so expensive that patients stop using or they ration it. The cost of insulin affects the cost of healthcare, and healthcare even for non-diabetics becomes more expensive. Patients need good glycemic control which can be achieved through insulin, and when insulin is not available, that results in more complications of diabetes - more amputations, more kidney failure, more blindness - and that increases the cost for everybody. So a cheaper insulin, a more readily available insulin, can result in better diabetic care.”

The Walmart insulin will cost a fraction of the price, at around $73 for a vial or about $86 for a package of pre-filled insulin pens, which was very good news to diabetics who rely on insulin.

Tracy Carter, a patient at Tanana Valley Clinic said, “I think it’s fabulous. You know, you have to have it. You have to have it to be alive, to be healthy. I think this is wonderful for all diabetics and everyone who has to use insulin. I have a good insurance plan, but I still have a significant amount of money that goes towards that co-pay. It doesn’t cover the full cost of the insulin. So I’m responsible for that. Anything that will help me long-term and reduce that cost is beneficial.”

And with the cost of healthcare increasing, this cheaper alternative can help save a lot of patients costs long term. Dr. Ahmed remarked, “Insulin was discovered approximately 100 years ago in 1923. So the product has not improved, but the cost has increased a lot over time. In between 2001 and 2016 the cost of insulin has increased by 353% over this 15 year time period. They packed it differently but the product is the same. The cost of healthcare is going up because more people are becoming obese and diabetic. Insulin is an integral part of diabetes management, and if it is not affordable then obviously you cannot provide good care. Sometimes patients who need insulin early are not getting it because they cannot afford it.”

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