This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.
By Lala Jackson
What to Do If You Have No Insulin at All
Go to the emergency room. Under US law (The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), the emergency room cannot turn you down in a life-threatening emergency if you do not have insurance or the ability to pay.
If Emergency Room staff is telling you they cannot treat you, stay put. Be clear that you are in a life-threatening emergency because you have type 1 diabetes (T1D) but do not have insulin. Do not leave. Please note that urgent care centers are not required to abide by the same laws.
Once you are stabilized and before you leave the hospital, hospital staff is required to meet with you to make sure you understand that you are leaving the hospital of your own accord. At this time, let the hospital staff person know about any financial situation you are in. Some hospitals are aligned with charities that can help you pay. Other hospitals offer payment plans based on your situation. No matter your financial situation, know that your life is the most important thing.
What to Do If You Have Some Insulin, But Are About to Run Out
Utilize Kevin’s Law
If you have an existing prescription at your pharmacy, but have not been able to get ahold of your healthcare provider to renew the prescription, you may be able to take advantage of Kevin’s Law. Kevin’s Law was named for a man with T1D who passed away after not being able to access his insulin prescription over the New Year’s holiday. Under the law, pharmacists are able to provide an emergency refill of insulin in certain states, without the authorization of a physician to renew the prescription. Rules around the law vary from state to state and not all states have the law in place. Kevin’s Law only applies to those who have an existing prescription and, depending on where you live, your insurance may or may not cover the refill. Learn more about Kevin’s Law, including whether or not your state has it, here. Please note, your pharmacist may not know the law by name, or know that the law exists. If you are in a state with Kevin’s Law and working with a pharmacist who is unaware, stay put and ask to speak to someone else in the pharmacy.
Ask Your Physician for Samples
While this is not a long-term access option, your care provider may be able to provide you with a few vials/pens for free, and bringing your HCP into the access conversation means that they can help direct you to other options that might be available to you, like local community health centers with insulin available.
Utilize Patient Assistance Programs – Standard out of Pocket Cost $0
- If you take Lilly insulin (Humalog, Basaglar) call the Lilly Diabetes Solutions Call Center Helpline at 1-833-808-1234
for personalized assistance. You may be eligible for free insulin through LillyCares.
- If you take Novo Nordisk insulin (Fiasp, NovoLog, NovoRapid, Levemir, Tresiba) and demonstrate immediate need or risk of rationing, you can receive a free, one-time, immediate supply of up to three vials or two packs of pens by calling 844-NOVO4ME (844-668-6463) or by visiting NovoCare.com.
- If you take Sanofi insulin (Admelog, Lantus, Toujeo): the Patient Connection Program provides Sanofi insulins to those who qualify, which is limited to those with no private insurance and who do not qualify for federal insurance programs and who are at or below 250% of the federal poverty level – with a few exceptions.
Utilize CoPay Cards – Standard out of Pocket Cost $35 – $99 per Month
Copay cards that reduce the out-of-pocket cost you pay at the pharmacy exist for most types of insulin. Some copay cards can be emailed to you within 24 hours. Currently, copay programs exist for:
- Lilly, capping copays at $35 per month for those with no insurance or with commercial insurance
- Novo Nordisk, capping copays at $99 for those with no insurance or with commercial insurance
- Sanofi, capping copays at $99 for those without prescription medication insurance
- Mannkind, capping copays at $15 for some of those with commercial insurance
Unfortunately, copay cards are typically not available for those insured through Medicaid or Medicare. Use the tool from the Partnership for Prescription Assistance to search in one place for discount programs and copay cards you qualify for here. Please be aware that you will need to search by brand name (i.e. Humalog, Novolog), not just “insulin.”
Get R & NPH Human Insulins – Standard out of Pocket Cost $25-$40 per Vial
R (Regular) and N (NPH) human insulins are available over-the-counter in 49 states and cost much less ($25-$40 per vial at Walmart) than analog insulins such Novolog, Humalog, Lantus, or Basaglar. They also work differently than analog insulins – they start working and peak at different times – but in an emergency situation can be a resource. Speak with the pharmacist or your healthcare provider if possible before changing your regimen and keep a very close eye on your blood sugar levels while using R & N insulin.
Research Available Biosimilar (Generic) Insulins
The biosimilar insulin market is changing rapidly as the FDA adopts new regulatory pathways to more efficiently approve interchangeable insulins that may be available for a lower price. Ask your healthcare provider for the most up-to-date options for you. A few options available are:
- A generic version of Humalog — Insulin Lispro — is available at pharmacies in the U.S. for $137.35 per vial and $265.20 for a package of five KwikPens (50% the price of Humalog.) If you have a prescription for Humalog, you do not need an additional prescription for Lispro; your pharmacist will be able to substitute the cheaper option. Insulin Lispro is not currently covered by insurance.
- Authorized generic versions of NovoLog and NovoLog Mix at 50% list price are stocked at the wholesaler level. People can order them at the pharmacy and they’ll be available for pick up in 1-3 business days
If you have enough insulin to last you a few days, but need to figure out where to get a more reliable, consistent supply, visit our Get Insulin page to find further resources.