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The true cost of the high price of insulin

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Michael McBrayer pricks his finger.
MPR News volunteer Michael McBrayer uses an Accu-Check blood sugar monitor before eating lunch inside the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul, Minn. on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Insulin is a matter of life and death for people with type 1 diabetes. But the cost of staying alive is increasingly steep. The price of a vial of insulin doubled between 2012 and 2016 – a jump no one can adequately explain. In response, diabetics report rationing their supplies – and many are dying because of it. Some are even caravanning to Canada, where the cost of insulin is often one-tenth of what it is in the U.S.

Minnesota lawmakers are among the many trying to relieve the burden. After it failed in the spring, there’s movement on a plan to get emergency insulin to those who need it. But right now, no one is sure how to pay for it, and it faces other hurdles for passage.

So what’s next? Tuesday, Kerri Miller spoke with two of the world’s leading diabetes researchers about the problem of insulin’s skyrocketing price and alternatives diabetics might have in the future for managing the disease.


  • Dr. Robert Eckel is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado and the incoming president of the American Diabetes Association. 

  • Dr. Elizabeth Seaquist is the director of the division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Minnesota.