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Jackson County is suing drugmakers and pharmacies over the high price of insulin

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A medical assistant administers insulin to an adolescent patient who has Type 1 diabetes.
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14.6% of Missouri adults live with diabetes, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services' 2023 diabetes report.

Insulin costs less than $2 per vial to make yet is sold for between $300-$700, according to a new court filing from Jackson County. The county is suing drugmakers like Eli Lilly and distributors like CVS Caremark for keeping the price of the life-saving drug artificially high.

Jackson County last month filed a lawsuit against insulin manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers over unfair insulin costs. Several states, including Kansas and California, are also suing over the same concern.

The county says drugmakers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi are working with distributors CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx to ensure the price of insulin continues to rise, even though it costs less to produce now than ever before.

In its lawsuit, Jackson County says the drugmakers pay refunds to pharmacies like CVS so their products can be on the list of approved drugs to sell, but this doesn't lower the list price for consumers.

And this is impacting patients not just in Kansas City but across all of Missouri, where 14.6% of the state’s population is living with diabetes.

“It's people making really difficult choices about what they're going to pay for this month and what they're not,” says Dr. Brandon Barthel, assistant professor at University Health.

Dr. Barthel joined KCUR’s Up To Date to discuss high insulin prices, their impact on the community and how to access affordable care.

Dr. Brandon Barthel, assistant professor, University Health

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Claudia Brancart is an Up To Date producer for KCUR 89.3. She graduated from Pitzer College in Los Angeles where she majored in World Literature and Studio Art. You can reach her at claudiab@kcur.org.
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