Insulin’s high price tag forcing some to switch to older, cheaper versions of the drug

Making the switch from analog insulin to older types of the drug can save patients money, INSIDER reports—but it can also be dangerous.

Most type 1 diabetics today are prescribed analog insulin to control their blood glucose, Kelly McLaughlin reported, which is the latest iteration of the drug and is formulated for a quicker onset. Human insulin, designed to mimic the way insulin functions in humans, works slower than analog and is less common today.

Though it’s cheaper, switching from analog to human insulin without a physician’s guidance can have serious—and at times deadly—consequences. In one case, a 27-year-old dog kennel supervisor switched from his $1,200-a-month prescription to a cheaper, $25-per-vial brand to save money for his upcoming wedding, and the abrupt change induced “multiple” mini-strokes and a diabetic coma. He died in June.

In another case, a woman who’d been using analog insulin since 1996 was forced to change her routine in 2009 when she lost health insurance and could no longer afford the price of analog. Nine months into using human insulin—which needs to be injected around mealtimes—she forgot to eat on a busy day and went into a hypoglycemic episode so severe her brain started hemorrhaging.

Nes Mathioudakis, an endocrinologist at Johns Hpkins, told INSIDER it’s safe to switch insulins, but it’s crucial for patients to move through the process with their doctor.

“You have to have a clear conversation about how the medications differ,” he said. “How do you take the mealtime insulin as opposed to what the patient was taking before.”

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