Soaring cost of life-saving drug becoming burden for diabetics

For diabetics, it is an added burden in dealing with the disease: skyrocketing prices for life-saving medications, including insulin.

Mona Chitre is the vice president of pharmacy management at Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rochester. She said the rising drug costs are an unfortunate reality.

"These drugs are important and they are life saving and we need to ensure we have access," Chitre told 13WHAM News. "It is a real challenge, and it is a burden for our families and our patients with diabetes."

The cost of insulin has risen 43% in the last four years, and, for many, it is difficult to purchase their medication.

Emily Kyle has a sister with type 1 diabetes. She says the cost of insulin has become a burden.

"Her prices are rising. $500 dollars a month is crazy, and it was not always that way," Kyle said.

"We are feeling it locally, regionally and nationally," Chitre added. "The price increases are an issue."

Name brands have a monopoly over the market with patents, so generics cannot be made. They account for 96% of money spent on diabetes medication according to Excellus.

"We have had a 40% price increase in four years - that is 1 billion for upstate New Yorkers," Mona Chitre said. "It is pharmaceutical companies doing what they do."

The increase is not going anywhere either. Prices are projected to rise another 18% this year.

"It is like if you have COPD and the cost of oxygen rises," Kyle said. "You still have to use it to live . there is not much you can do."

As a consumer, there are steps you can take to lower cost. Ask for a 90 day supply of your medication with automatic refills or home delivery. You can also talk to your doctor about lower cost medications and look into lower cost insurance plans.

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