More than 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and a prescription for the insulin needed to treat this potentially deadly condition costs an average of nearly $700. In an effort to expand its health offerings and to provide insulin at a more affordable price point, Walmart
With its new insulin option, Walmart says it will "revolutionize the access and affordability" of this essential diabetes treatment. Due to the current price, it's not uncommon for uninsured diabetics to pass away while waiting to be able to afford treatment.
The exclusive Walmart version of insulin was launched on Tuesday, and will be sold under the company's private ReliOn brand. The company plans to offer both analog insulin vials and Flex Pens for administering the doses. The product will be available at Walmart pharmacies this week, and Sam's Club next month.
Walmart teamed up with the massive pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk to manufacture the drug. By working directly with the manufacturers, Walmart hopes to be able to significantly undercut the existing price of insulin. Diabetics represent roughly 14% of Walmart customers.
"We know many people with diabetes struggle to manage the financial burden of this condition, and we are focused on helping by providing affordable solutions," Walmart's executive vice president of health and wellness, Cheryl Pegus, wrote in a statement. "We also know this is a condition that disproportionately impacts underserved populations."
Currently, diabetes care accounts for one out of every four dollars spent on healthcare in the United States. On average, medical care for just one person with diabetes for one year costs roughly $17,000. This represents approximately 36% of one year's income for the average Black household, according to data from the 2019 Census.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the price of insulin has been accelerating. During the eleven years between 2002 and 2013, the price nearly tripled. Then, between 2012 and 2016, the price nearly doubled.
While the price has skyrocketed, insulin itself has stayed basically the same for the last century.
The price hikes may be going unaddressed, but they're not going unnoticed. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have spoken out against the astronomical price of insulin. In fact, the price hikes have been so universally criticized that lawmakers' pushback has been bipartisan at times.
Last year, a bipartisan Senate report found that the two insulin giants Novo Nordisk and Sanofi had both been closely monitoring each other's prices in order to ensure that each could change their prices to match or top the other's within hours or days of an increase.
Walmart, for its part, has a record of working to lower healthcare costs and improve outcomes. At 20 Walmart locations, the company has opened clinics offering cost-effective healthcare, including $30 checkups and $25 dental cleanings.