AskNadia: The Cost of Generic and Biosimilar Insulin

Dear Nadia,

The cost of insulin is making it difficult for me to manage my type 2 diabetes. Is there a generic or biosimilar insulin that is cheaper than my Lantus?


Dear Anne,

As a former owner of a diabetes store, I use to sell insulin for $20.00 a vial before the designer insulin came to market. Today’s insulin costs make me feel helpless in my ability to assist people that reach out to me for their insulin needs.

Your concern for the increasing cost is echoed by many. The NIH reports that insulin costs have gone up 197% from 2002 to 2013.

Over the years, I have spoken to healthcare professionals who use to be frustrated with their patients because of their high A1C levels. They referred to these patients as “non-compliant.”

Jane Seley reinforced this prejudice when she wrote an article for Diabetes Health about how healthcare professionals providing substandard care, unfairly describe patients as “non-compliant.”

Diabetes Target Costs

It is folly to evaluate people living with diabetes simply on their blood glucose results. A determining factor should also include the patients’ ability to afford the necessary medication and supplies.  I would like to suggest that the industry and government adopt a new term, “Diabetes Target Costs” when evaluating patients “non-adherence.”  The personal cost to manage diabetes can be impossible. Especially, if your budget only allows the Bronz insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act which tends to have a higher deductible.


The FDA approves a generic drug when a pharmaceutical company offers a cheaper identical alternative that provides the same benefits in dosage, treatment, and administration as a branded medication.  These low-cost drugs usually come to market when a branded medication is losing its patent.  The low-cost generic Metformin, for people living with type 2 diabetes is the alternative to the branded Glucophage.

Some physicians are now prescribing Metformin, a traditionally type 2 treatment drug, to insulin resistant patients living with type 1 diabetes.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association reports that Generic medications accounted for 88 % of all prescriptions filled in 2014.


Biosimilars are medications that are copy cats of a brand name. They are similar to a biological FDA approved drug that offers the same efficacy, and safety as a brand drug.

Cheaper Than Lantus

The alternative Biosimilar basal insulin to Lantus is the new Basaglar insulin from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim. It will be available at your pharmacy on Dec 15th, 2016.


Basaglar basal insulin is expected to cost less than the competing Lantus insulin. However, it will not be deeply discounted as the generic metformin is to Glucophage. Unlike generics, The biosimilar Basaglar insulin is expected to be offered 30% less than the competing Lantus brand name.

Looking to the horizon, we can expect to see more biosimilars entering the diabetes market soon.

You might be interested in reading this one article about generic insulin.




Diabetes Health

Metformin for Type 1 Diabetes

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Nadia’s feedback on your question is in no way intended to initiate or replace your healthcare professionals’ therapy or advice. Please check in with your medical team to discuss your diabetes management concerns.

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About Nadia:
Nadia was not only born into a family with diabetes but also married into one. Propelled at a young age into “caretaker mode,” and with her knowledge of the scarcity of resources, support, and understanding for people with diabetes, she co-founded Diabetes Interview, now Diabetes Health magazine.

Nadia holds 14 nominations for her work as a diabetes advocate. Her passion for working in the diabetes community stemmed from her personal loss—a mother and a brother whom both succumbed from the effects of type 2 diabetes. She has used her experience as a caretaker to forge a career in helping others.

One thought on “AskNadia: The Cost of Generic and Biosimilar Insulin

  • PeggyEllen Kleinleder

    Walmart still has NPH and Regular insulin available for less than 30 dollars a vial…Not as easy to use as the newer insulins, but better than no insulin at all.


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