RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Do you pay too much each month for insulin?
A new ad from Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley’s campaign says Americans pay on average more than 13 times as much for a vial of insulin as people in other countries do.
But where do the numbers behind that claim come from — and do they add up?
THE CLAIM: Beasley says in the ad that “if you live outside the U.S., a month’s supply of this insulin costs about $16. But here, it’s more than $220” and that when Congress “had a chance to do something,” Republican Senate opponent Ted Budd voted against it.
THE FACTS: Those numbers came from a 2020 study published by the RAND Corporation, a California-based think tank, that compared the price of insulin in the United States to 32 comparable countries.
The study found a vial of rapid-acting insulin cost an average of $113.39 per vial in the U.S., compared to an average of $8.19 in those other countries, including France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Turkey.
It also says the average diabetic needs two of them a month — so, those numbers seem to line up.
Also according to the report, the United States accounts for 32 percent of the total amount of insulin used, but 84 percent of the sales when measured in U.S. dollars.
In other words, the U.S. uses more insulin than other countries — and pays even more for it.
It’s a big deal here in North Carolina, which ranks 11th nationally with nearly 13 percent of adults having diabetes, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2020. That rate has more than doubled since 1990.
The ad also hits Budd for voting against a bill that would have capped the monthly cost of insulin to $35 for people who have insurance, beginning in 2023.
The Affordable Insulin Now Act would limit the out-of-pocket charge to either that dollar amount or a quarter of the price the insurance company negotiated with the drugmaker, whichever is lowest.
It passed April 1 by a vote of 232-193, and voting records show Budd did vote no on the bill.
In fact, seven of the state’s eight Republican members of Congress voted against it — Rep. Richard Hudson was the exception. All five Democrats voted yes.
We asked the Budd campaign why the Congressman voted no, and campaign spokesman Jonathan Felts said in a statement that the bill “does nothing to lower the price drug companies charge for insulin” but will instead “lead to more profit for drug companies, higher insurance premiums on patients and billions more in taxpayer costs.”
That echoes the message from critics who have said the bill would raise premiums and fails to target pharmaceutical middlemen seen as contributing to high list prices for insulin.