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Health

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Insulin use rises, expenses double

– Diabetics are using more insulin and paying about twice as much for the treatment than a decade ago, even though questions remain about whether the newer forms of the drug are more effective, Yale University researchers said.

Out-of-pocket costs for each insulin prescription rose to $36 in 2010 from $19 in 2000 as patients switched to newer forms of insulin that cost two to four times more than older versions, research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found. The percentage of diabetics filling insulin prescriptions rose to 15 percent from 9.7 percent.

The newer treatments, called insulin analogs, offer comparable blood sugar control to older drugs, though are more convenient and cost more, said Kasia Lipska, the lead study author. Tuesday’s research, however, found only a slight benefit at reducing severe nighttime hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, a condition the newer drugs are designed to prevent.

“What we’re showing is we kind of universally switched over to the more expensive option without that much convincing data about the benefits of this transition,” said Lipska, an instructor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. “When we see these types of shifts, we have to know whether this is worth it.”

More studies are needed to compare the different types of diabetes medicines, she said.

Diabetes, which results when the body doesn’t use insulin properly or doesn’t make the hormone, is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

More than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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