Chennai: Fluctuations in the US Dollar have led to escalations in the prices of insulin pens, cartridges and basal insulin by up to 20% over the last few months. Diabetologists state that around one-third of their insulin-dependent patients are now paying more for their daily medication. Data obtained from the online medical store, Netmeds, suggest that costs of basal insulin and premixed varieties that come in pens and cartridges have undergone a surge by 3.5% to 20.9% from January to December 2018. The cost of insulin pens sold by a particular pharma giant has gone up by Rs 134 in December 2018 from Rs 640 in January. This amounts to a 20.9% increase over a period of one year.
Companies attribute this rise in costs to the fluctuation in US Dollar prices over the last few months. Pharma analyst R Srinivasan said that the prices have been stable for the products manufactured in India. Some products, like pens, cartridges and basal insulin are imported. Cost for most such products has shown a rise. Cost for commonly used insulin that can be drawn into syringes from vials hasn’t gone up. According to the International Diabetes Federation estimates, the prevalence of diabetes among people between 20 and 79 years of age in India is 72.9 million. In Chennai, more than a fifth of the population is diabetic.
Nearly a third of diabetics in India are prescribed basal insulin. Award winning senior diabetologist, Dr V Mohan, said that these insulins are given to patients when there is a need. He mentioned that they also see if the patients can afford them.
The cost of managing diabetes is usually out of the patient’s pocket as most of the health insurance companies do not pay for outpatient therapy and drugs. The average monthly expense for a diabetic comes to Rs 3,000 to Rs 8,000 a month. In case of hospitalization, it can cost anywhere between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1.5lakh for medical management including intensive care. For instance, 46-year-old chartered accountant, Srinivasan R, was advised to switch from human insulin on vials to basal insulin two years ago after he complained of palpitation and dizziness at work. His tests revealed that his sugar levels were dropping to dangerously low levels at certain times. His sugar levels were fluctuating through the day. The basal insulin acts uniformly through the day and he found the change comfortable, he mentioned. He was paying around Rs 2,700 for this insulin till mid-2018 but now he has to pay at least Rs 2,980. This would amount to at least Rs 5,000 more every year. Medical insurance doesn’t fund it, he said. (TNN)