CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Millions of young Americans with diabetes – even those with private insurance – are more likely to ration insulin than seniors, a new study finds.
About 1.3 million Americans with diabetes feel the need to stretch out their insulin supplies – the life-saving treatment for diabetics – due to high costs and a lack of access. A team from Harvard Medical School and CUNY Hunter College say this problem actually hurts young adults more than those over age 65. The new analysis finds that insulin rationing is most common among young Americans living both with and without insurance coverage. However, diabetics covered by Medicaid were least likely to ration insulin.
The study authors note that the federal government’s newly passed law, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, will primarily assist older adults by limiting their Medicare copay to $35 a month. However, “cost and insurance-related insulin rationing and nonadherence” issues will continue to be common among those not covered by that legislation, according to the study.
The team collected responses from a nationally representative group of 982 American adults. The authors were able to find that 16.5 percent, or 1.3 million of the country’s six million adults with diabetes ration insulin. The most common form of rationing overall occurs when diabetics simply delay the purchase of their medication. Among people with Type 1 diabetes specifically, the most common form of rationing occurs when people take less insulin than they need each day.
Twice as many young diabetics ration their medication
More than one in five younger adults (20.4%) say they routinely do some form of insulin rationing. Among seniors over 65, about half of that number say they do the same.
“Participants who rationed insulin reported feeling overwhelmed by the demands of living with diabetes,” the study authors note in a media release.
Rates of insulin rationing were highest among uninsured people as well as diabetics who have high-priced private insurance costs. The authors reiterate that while the Inflation Reduction Act may improve insulin access by keeping copays under $35, this still leaves millions of people struggling to pay for their diabetes medication.
The study findings come from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the team notes in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, nationwide information is lacking in terms of insulin costs.
Although financial problems may continue to cause insulin rationing, a recent study shows that diabetics may soon be able to take insulin in pill-form rather than through an injection. Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) say they are developing an oral insulin tablet that could one day allow people with Type 1 diabetes to take their medicine without needles.
“These exciting results show that we are on the right track in developing an insulin formulation that will no longer need to be injected before every meal, improving the quality of life, as well as mental health, of more than nine million Type 1 diabetics around the world,” says a senior author involved with that project.