What to do If You Need Insulin Right Now


 

Editor’s Note: People who take insulin require consistently affordable and predictable sources of insulin at all times. If you or a loved one are struggling to find reliable access to insulin, click here.


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 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.

 

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, click here to find further resources, like Patient Assistance Programs and copay cards.

WRITTEN BY Lala Jackson, POSTED 03/31/20, UPDATED 09/25/20

Lala is a communications strategist who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since 1997. She worked across med-tech, business incubation, library tech, and wellness before landing in the T1D non-profit space in 2016. A bit of a nomad, she grew up primarily bouncing between Hawaii and Washington state and graduated from the University of Miami. You can usually find her reading, preferably on a beach.