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It Costs a Minimum of $5,200 Per Year to Be Diabetic

New research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine has found that the price in New York and New Jersey of the medications most commonly prescribed for patients with diabetes varies widely depending on where you shop. Researchers found that the combined cost of a 30-day supply of the ten medications most used by diabetics varied from a low of $428.35 at Medco by Mail up to $641.90 at Rite Aid. The study is of out-of-pocket costs for people who do not have prescription drug insurance.

Ronald Tamler, MD, PhD, MBA, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and Clifton Jackness, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, compiled a list of the ten medications most often prescribed to patients ages 18 to 65 who have diabetes. When the price at various pharmacies of a 30-day supply of the ten drugs most commonly prescribed to diabetes patients were added, the totals were:

Medco by Mail (excluding shipping) $428.35
Wal-Mart $432.53
Kmart $483.94

Drugstore.com (excluding shipping) $501.65
Target $505.95
CVS $584.44
Duane Reade $633.11
Walgreen’s $638.31
Rite Aid $641.90

“Daily medications are a significant expenditure for many diabetics, and nearly one in five adults with diabetes cuts back on prescription medications due to cost,” said Dr. Jackness. “Discount stores and mail-order companies are more competitive than neighborhood retailers and convenience chains stores, and price-conscious patients can save several thousand dollars per year. Clearly it pays to be an informed consumer.”

“Much of the price disparity can be attributed to generic drug programs recently started at large superstores such as Wal-Mart and Target, where for example a 30-day supply of the generic form of Metformin is sold for just $4.00,” said Dr. Tamler. “A 30-day supply of the same medication sold for $39.99 at Rite Aid and $33.69 at Duane Reade.”

Prescription data were obtained from PharMetrics Patient-Centric Database, comprised of medical and pharmaceutical claims for approximately 52 million unique insured patients from 91 health plans across the United States. Only medications chronically used to treat conditions resulting from diabetes were included. The ten medications studied are: Metformin, Atorvastatin, Lisinopril, Furosemide, Pioglitazone, Simvastatin, Hydrochlorothiazide, Insulin glargine, Amlodipine, and Atenolol.

“The average number of medications per day for a patient with diabetes is 8.9,” said Dr. Jackness. “The average diabetes patient probably takes most of these on a daily basis.”

The prices of these medications were determined by the New York and New Jersey State Attorneys General offices, which keep current tabulations of prescription drug prices in those states. The researchers then confirmed the data by contacting the pharmacies directly.

Care for patients with diabetes can be five times as costly as care for non-diabetics, and according to Medicare data, diabetes is among the conditions that cause the highest expenditure, at approximately $79.1 billion. In 2002, diabetes cost the United States an estimated $132 billion in medical expenditures and lost productivity. In New York State alone, 7.7% of the population, or approximately 1.1 million individuals, have the disease.


Tamler R. Type 1 diabetes mellitus: new knowledge of etiology, new approaches to management. Mt Sinai J Med. 2008 Aug;75(4):313.

Mount Sinai Medical Center Released: Thu 11-Jun-2009

Key concepts: diabetes, cost