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Novolog and Humalog: A Diabetic’s Challenge

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

We have all heard about Diabetes and how it can be broken down into Type 1 and Type 2.

Yet, nobody brings awareness to how the two most common types of short-acting insulin treatments for Type 1 Diabetes, Novolog and Humalog, have prices that are seriously skyrocketing!

What Is Novolog?

Novolog (brand name version of insulin aspart) is rapid-acting insulin used to reduce blood sugar spikes during mealtime for children and adults with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Since 2001, Novolog has helped many people reach their A1C goals.

A1C goals are blood tests that can help give information on a person's average blood sugar level over the past 2 to 3 months. Higher levels indicate a greater risk of developing more complications in one's journey with Diabetes. Most people have to use the A1C at least twice every year to ensure treatment goals are being met.

The majority of adults with Diabetes have an A1C goal of less than 7%.

While this form of insulin treatment seems promising, the average retail price from a 10 mL vial of Novolog costs about $290.

What About Humalog and Its Pricing?

Like Novolog, Humalog (brand name version of insulin lispro) is a form of fast-acting insulin treatment for individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

The average retail price for a 10 mL vial of Humalog is $275. So, Humalog is slightly cheaper than Novolog on a per insulin unit basis.

Drug Comparison Chart

The Real Deal Crisis

For the 1.6 million citizens in the United States with Diabetes, insulin is as crucial as breathing air. Unfortunately, Novolog and Humalog are life-saving drugs that people cannot afford to access. Why?

The pricing of Novolog and Humalog has tripled in the last decade, although no changes have been made to the product.

  • In 2009, the price for a 10 mL vial of Humalog made by Eli Lilly was about $93 --> Today, it costs about $275.

  • In 2009, the price for a 10 mL vial of Novolog was about $93 --> Today, it costs about $290.

According to a 2018 T1International Patient Survey, more than a quarter of citizens in the United States had to ration their insulin in 2017. This was the highest percentage of insulin rationing of any high-income country reviewed! Rationing insulin is a life-or-death decision that many people have to make.

Why Are Companies Doing This?

Insulin companies are facing backlash for their unaffordable prices. They have been on a rapid incline the last decade, but it’s important to look at why this is happening.

The pharmaceutical industry has three main insulin suppliers in North America Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi. These companies are mostly in control of the insulin market, and have been for years. Why? A big contribution to this is the patenting of this life-saving medicine.

Patenting means that only these companies can sell insulin, and this causes a monopoly in the market which drives up prices artificially making the consumer pay more than they are able to afford. Patents bought by companies are given a certain time frame where only they can sell the product, and after that the market is open to new patents. However, pharmaceutical companies right now are finding loopholes in the system, and are extending their patents past their original time frames.

These companies make a huge profit from doing this, and they capitalize on this through marketing. This can be advertisements, but part of this process involves appealing to government agencies who will ensure that their systems are kept. This is done through lobbying, where these companies donate to politicians and their campaigns to keep their prices.

Politics also comes into play when looking at the revolving door between government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. The current secretary of Health and Human Services in the U.S. is Alex Azar, who is a former executive manager of Eli Lilly, one of the three largest insulin companies in the market.

Another reason for the increase in insulin prices is the sphere of influence that these companies have over diabetic organizations. For example, the two largest diabetes organizations in America are The American Diabetes Association and The Juvenile Diabetes Research Association. Both of these companies have accepted large amounts of donations from the three insulin companies, and this has allowed for them to market their companies through these organizations.

This sphere of influence stretches over organizations that are created from these companies as well. The World Diabetes Foundation was actually created and is currently funded by Novo Nordisk. This organization’s purpose is to raise awareness for and advocate for diabetes, but are once again promoting insulin companies.

How Can People Affordably Access Insulin?

Luckily, companies like GoodRx and nonprofit organizations like Insulin For Life can make this process easier for individuals!

GoodRx offers coupons on drugs in over 75,000 pharmacies within the United States. The best part about their company is that people can access these coupons with or without insurance. How does GoodRx make this work?

All someone needs to do is look for GoodRx codes for insulin (which they are currently offering coupons for both Novolog and Humalog).

Insulin For Life collects excess diabetes supplies in the United States and sends them to those in need worldwide. Donations are a key part of their success!

By Michelle Diaz and Inaya Ansari

Works Cited

Business Insider. 2020. One Chart Reveals How The Cost Of Insulin Has Skyrocketed In The US, Even Though Nothing About It Has Changed. [online] Available at: <,have%20essentially%20increased%20in%20lockstep.> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Diabetes Overview - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Understanding A1C | ADA. [online] Available at: <,that%20is%20less%20than%207%25.&text=If%20your%20A1C%20level%20is,were%20in%20the%20diabetes%20range.> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Goodrx - Error. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Goodrx - Error. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Diabetes Treatment | Humalog® (Insulin Lispro Injection). [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Type 1 Diabetes - Diagnosis And Treatment - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020].

Mayo Clinic. 2020. Type 2 Diabetes - Symptoms And Causes. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. Who Should Consider Novolog®? | Novolog® (Insulin Aspart Injection) 100 U/Ml. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020]. 2020. 8 Reasons Why Insulin Is So Outrageously Expensive. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 August 2020].

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