State program aims to keep driving down price of insulin for all Utahns

Jan 4, 2024, 7:00 PM

utah woman's insulin kit...

Stephanie Arceneaux prepares her short-acting insulin shot at the dining room table in her home in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Colter Peterson/Deseret News)

(Colter Peterson/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A life-saving medication, insulin, is becoming less expensive for Americans with diabetes. Utahns are no exception thanks to a state program that lowers the price of the drug.

More Americans can now get insulin for $35.

  • According to the American Diabetes Association, about 8.4 million Americans use insulin, which was discovered in 1921.
  • From 2017 to 2022, the inflation-adjusted cost of insulin increased 24%, according to the American Diabetes Association.

State program lowers insulin costs

Rep. Norman Thurston joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss insulin becoming more accessible to more Utah diabetics at much lower prices. He said the typical retail price for a vial is $350.

“Recognize that most people need three or four vials a month,” he added.

Thurston said no diabetic in Utah should be paying that much because the state has a bulk-purchasing program, bringing the price per vial down to $90.

“But that even still stretches a lot of people’s budget,” he said, adding that $35 per vial would better help many diabetics in Utah.

Buying insulin in bulk

The good news, he said, the program has recently expanded to allow the purchase of discounted insulin to any state resident.

Under the bulk-purchasing program, he said, the pharmacy benefit manager works on behalf of the state to negotiate lower prescription drug prices with health insurance companies and drugmakers.

“The cost of producing insulin is about $3 a vial — roughly $2.50 to $3.50, somewhere in there — so there’s plenty of room to negotiate down from $350 to something that’s more reasonable,” Thurston said.

The bulk-purchasing program has worked well, he said, and has expanded into EpiPens, which for a package of two auto-injectors can cost between $650 to $750 without insurance.

“We’re looking at maybe expanding it to others [medications] where people are paying a lot of money out of pocket — so they can at least get the same bulk discounts that the state gets when we buy it for our employees,” Thurston said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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State program aims to keep driving down price of insulin for all Utahns