VA paid $4.4B less than Medicare for insulin

If Medicare negotiated drug prices like the Department of Veterans Affairs and used the same formulary, it could've saved $4.4 billion on insulin costs in 2017, according to a study published Feb. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine

In 2017, Medicare Part D spent about $7.8 billion on insulin, after factoring for rebates. If it negotiated the way the VA did, it could've spent $3.4 billion, the study said. 

The study estimated that Medicare received a 41 percent discount on insulin in the form of rebates from drugmakers based on data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Assuming it received a more conservative discount, the total savings on insulin still would've been about $1.1 billion, the study estimated. 

The study comes as outrage over insulin prices rises across the country. More than 9.3 percent of the U.S. population has some form of diabetes, according to CDC data cited by STAT, and insulin was created almost a century ago. But costs have risen so high for insulin that some patients have been forced to ration their supply.  

Some companies and lawmakers have taken steps to make insulin more affordable. 

At least 13 members of Congress plan to bring an insulin affordability advocate as their guests to the State of the Union address Feb. 4, according to STAT

Eli Lilly began selling half-priced versions of its insulin products last May and added two more versions in January. 

CVS Caremark launched a program last month to eliminate their beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs on insulin. 

The state of Illinois also capped out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $100 for a 30-day supply last month. 

Read the full study here.

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