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US insulin costs per patient nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016: study

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The cost of insulin for treating type 1 diabetes in the United States nearly doubled over a five-year period, underscoring a national outcry over rising drug prices, according to a new analysis shared with Reuters.

A person with type 1 diabetes incurred annual insulin costs of $5,705, on average, in 2016. The average cost was roughly half that at $2,864 per patient in 2012, according to a report due to be released on Tuesday by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI).

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The figures represent the combined amount paid by a patient and their health plan for the medicine and do not reflect rebates paid at a later date.

The increasing cost of insulin has led some patients to put their own health at risk.

In recent months, anecdotal stories have cropped up from family members and patients describing the rationing of the life-saving medication because they could not afford out-of-pocket expenses for insulin. That has also led to some protests outside company headquarters of insulin makers.

HCCI said the jump in spending was driven primarily by higher insulin prices overall and, to a lesser extent, a shift toward more expensive insulin products. Average daily insulin use rose only 3 percent over the same five-year period, the report found.

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“It’s not that individuals are using more insulin or that new products are particularly innovative or provide immense benefits,” Jeannie Fuglesten Biniek, a senior researcher at HCCI and the report’s co-author said in a phone interview.

“Use is pretty flat, and the price changes are occurring in both older and newer products. That surprised me. The exact same products are costing double,” she said.

Drugmakers say they periodically need to raise U.S. list prices of their medications to help offset steep rebates they must offer to get them covered by insurance plans. In the last two years, major pharmaceutical makers have limited annual price hikes of prescription medicines under growing pressure from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and Congress.

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NEW OUTRAGE
HCCI, based in Washington, D.C., tracks insurance claims data on about 80 million people, drawing on information from the government’s Medicare health plan for Americans aged 65 and older and four of the industry’s largest health insurers: UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, now owned by CVS Health Corp, Humana Inc and Kaiser Permanente.

The insulin report analyzed commercial claims data for about 15,000 patients with type 1 diabetes annually who had at least one prescription for an insulin product during the year.

From 2012 to 2016, the average price of insulin increased from 13 cents per unit to 25 cents per unit, according to the report. For the average patient using 60 units per day, the daily cost went from $7.80 in 2012 to $15 in 2016.

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The findings come amid new outrage over the cost of prescription drugs in the United States, the highest in the world.

This month, Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation aimed at lowering prescription medicine costs for consumers and sent letters to 12 drugmakers seeking information on price hikes. They included the top three insulin manufacturers – Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co, Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk A/S and France’s Sanofi SA.

In October, the Minnesota attorney general sued the three main insulin makers and accused them of deceptively raising prices. A similar proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of patients is pending in New Jersey federal court.

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“Different actors want to make an example of insulin now and how its cost is a huge barrier for millions of patients,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

So far in 2019, Sanofi raised prices on some insulin products between 4.4 percent and 5.2 percent, while Novo Nordisk raised prices on some of its insulins by 4.9 percent. As of Jan. 17, Lilly had not raised prices on its insulins.

Sanofi and Novo Nordisk said they could not comment until they have seen the full report. Lilly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 1.2 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 2 diabetes, a growing problem linked to the obesity epidemic, is far more common, affecting nearly 30 million people in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. While type 2 diabetes is treated with a variety of other medicines, those patients may also eventually become dependent on insulin as the disease progresses.

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Reporting by Robin Respaut in San Francisco and Chad Terhune in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Michael Erman in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report

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Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.

The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.

But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.

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In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.

"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.

The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.

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Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors

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A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.

The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.

"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.

The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.

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