Chronic Diseases

Insulin is expensive, but you can find affordable alternatives

It is important that you get medical advice from the right sources. These tips can help you.


Insulin is expensive. Why? Because the market is controlled by three main companies (Sanofi, Nordisk, Eli Lilly). Combined, these three companies control 90% of the global market, and a lack of competition and generics mean higher prices for consumers. If you live in Boyle Heights, or anywhere in the United States, there are a few reasons for sky-high insulin prices:

  • No generics. Due to insulin being classified as a biological product and not a chemically synthesized product, it cannot become a generic in the same way as other drugs do. Companies that want to provide their own insulin must go through trials and approval stages, making competition sparse in the market.
  • Patents. US patent laws allow for 20 years of patent security for companies, but insulin manufacturers use loopholes to extend these patents. Sanofi, just one of the big three, has held a monopoly on the market for over 37 years by filing different patent applications.
  • Price fixing. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against insulin manufacturers that allege that they’re price-fixing. The practice keeps prices the same or around the same for all manufacturers, leaving little room for lower insulin prices. The practice allows all manufacturers to raise prices simultaneously, generate higher profits, and put a strain on the people who need diabetes medication the most.
  • Manufacturing is expensive. Manufacturing of an insulin biosimilar is still expensive if it is generic. The prices may be reduced by 20%, but due to the nature of insulin, DNA technology is required to produce it. Since the technology is expensive, the price of insulin is much higher to manufacture than a standard drug.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors leading to higher insulin prices. Competition being small is a major problem, but loopholes in the law, lack of generics, and price-fixing are a problem.

What Can You Do to Afford Insulin?

If you need insulin and want to find an affordable means of taking insulin, you do have a few options available:

  • Discuss switching insulins with your doctor. Your doctor may find that human insulin is a good option for you, or you may be able to use Basaglar to save money on insulin costs.
  • Inquire with your health insurance provider. Your health insurance provider may cover certain insulin and not others. The plan may cover biosimilar options for a lower price, making insulin more affordable.
  • Discount programs. A lot of online retailers offer discount programs on insulin that can make it more affordable. GoodRx and Inside Rx are two online options to choose from.
  • HICAP. California residents that are disabled or 65 years or older may be eligible for Medicare. The official HICAP website has more information that can help determine eligibility.

You may be able to find prescription assistance through programs, such as NeedyMeds and Medicine Assistance Tool.
Speak to your physician to discuss what options may be available for you. If it’s an emergency and you need insulin immediately, urgent care or emergency room may be able to help you temporarily while trying to find assistance using other avenues.


You can also find more trusted local services in your community at or download the Boyle Heights Resources app.


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