How much does diabetes cost?

By | 10 August, 2009

Chatting on the Intermaweb the other day with other British diabetics, we suddenly and collectively realised that we didn’t actually have any idea how much our diabetes cost the NHS each year. Unlike some of our American friends, because of the wonders of the NHS, we’re almost completely shielded from the actual cost of our life-giving supplies.

Therefore last time I was collecting my monthly prescription I talked my friendly pharmacist into letting me go behind the counter after closing time to check out the wholesale prices of diabetic supplies in the UK.

Unfortunately, being a model of incredible efficiency, he couldn’t find his latest price list, so we had to rely on one that was a few months out of date – but you’ll get the idea. Anyway, those prices in full:

  • Lantus – £39 per pack of 5 bottles
  • Humalog – £28.31 per pack of 5 bottles
  • Test strips – £14.53 per pack of 50 strips

Of course, these are the UK wholesale price and the eventual cost to the NHS will almost certainly vary from this. There’s a whole new world involving grey-market imports & exports as well as practices that I consider to be very close to price-fixing between the pharmaceutical companies – but we’ll leave all those fun things for another article. The long and short of it is, based on my back-of-cigarette-packet calculations, I cost the NHS about £175 a month or (to save you working it out) £2,100 a year.

Of course, these calculations are very rough and are for mere supplies only. They don’t take into account the costs of my regular check ups at the ERI, the time it takes for my local doc to sign off my prescription every month or the costs to my employers of my time off work to go for check ups and the myriad other costs that my diabetes incurs.

I’ve also quickly worked out the amount of tax I pay and the National Insurance contributions my employers contribute to the Exchequer’s coffers. When you take into account all the other non-health related services I use then, hurrah, I’m almost certainly a drain on the nation’s finances! I’m so proud to be diabetic!

Category: Living with diabetes Tags: ,

About Tim

Diagnosed with Type One when he was 28, Tim founded Shoot Up in 2009. For the diabetes geeks, he wears a Medtronic 640G insulin pump filled with Humalog and uses Abbott's Libre flash glucose monitor.

12 thoughts on “How much does diabetes cost?

  1. Mike

    Hi Tim

    I thought I would through in my own costing solely for Accu Chek Aviva Test Strips. Here in Spain they retail @ €43,59. That works at around 37 GBP (don’t have a pound sign on my keyboard).

    Per annum things would work out @ 994 GBP based on 4 tests per day.

    I was diagnosed back in 1998, so that for the last 11 years I would have coughed up close to 11,000 pounds if it were not for the UK NHS and Spanish NHS.

    Luckily the costs are subsidised for me (box of 50 costs me 45 cents), but many others will be forking out for these per month in addition to insulin with Novo Rapid in Pen-fill @ €46 and Lantus @ approx €65 for a box of 5 pens. That works out pretty expensive.

    I know so guys in the US had a social media event with Roche and one of the big questions that arose during the conversations was the cost of test strips.

    I can’t believe for one minute that a single test strip costs 74p to make????

    Think a test crusade is in order.. 🙂

  2. Ckoei

    Here in South Africa my measly monthly pound of flesh would amount to +/- £75 if I bought everything at a big metropolitan discount pharmacy. Specifically, a 5-pack of Lantus Solostar costs £48,08 , needles are £0,19 apiece and test strips (Accu-Chek Active) weigh in (too heavily*) at £15,02 the vial.

    All in all, I am a cheap tart (compared to you). Do I win the bag?

    *61% of total

  3. Tim

    @Mike Test strips certainly are a big issue. Also (with my, admitedly, very limited reseach) I find it odd that a lot of strips from different companies seem to be of very similar price. Has anyone else noticed this? Or is it just the limits of my investigations?

  4. Tim

    @Ckoei We should conduct reserach to find the cheapest country to be a diabetic. And then all move there. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    No, you don’t win the bag – but I had one for my camera that’s very similar! (I didn’t have to pay for mine though…)

  5. CALpumper

    On average here in the US, a bottle of Lantus goes for $100 (retail), same for one bottle of Humalog and test strips about $45 for 50. Depending on regulations in each country, finding decent prices online is the way to go if you don’t have health insurance. I’ve purchased 3 bottles of Humalog from Canada for the price of one in the US.

    I don’t understand how a manufacturer can be all over the world and the prices differ So much. I understand “cost of living” needs to be calculated and lest we forget about the profit margin but it makes me sick.

    As far as those test strips costs brought up at the Roche Diabetes Card Social Media Summit; we may never know the “true” cost but there is a reason some test strips cost more than others. The material and process for accuracy do raise the prices.

    I wish I had better information and a conversion calculator or chart to compare better with the comments above. And yes, Tim, I have noticed on average test strips across the board cost about the same retail. Some are cheaper: WaveSense products are a great example, better quality/accuracy for cheaper prices.

    We rely on these things yet they are so expensive. Especially if you don’t have health insurance. Which I don’t. Me moving to Canada was discussed today with my boss. Eh.

  6. Tim


    CALpumper :
    I wish I had better information and a conversion calculator or chart to compare better with the comments above.

    Hmm, if only we had some sort of international network we could use to display text and figures available to us…

    Leave it with me – I have an idea…

  7. Ckoei

    This adapted IDF graphcompares cost of insulin to gross national product.

    (With the money spent on the 5-pack Lantus, I would be able to buy 92 breads or 107 tins of Coke, while my monthly 3 vials of test-strips are (metaphorically) withholding me from 86 breads & 100 cans of Cola. Maybe insulin & strips are so expensive to protect us from carbohydrate overload.)

  8. Mike

    Leave it with me – I have an idea…

    Starting sound like Hannibal from the A-Team!

  9. christina

    Morning===I think we win….. My daughter is a “brittle” Type 1 and uses enormous amounts of insulin. We get 12 bottles of Novolog and 1 Lantus a month with her pump supplies which are probably $50.00 a month. Also, she tests 10 times a day so we get 300 tests strips a month. If I didn’t have medical insurance, we’d be up a creek. What about generic insulin–why can’t a company come up with that—–

  10. Tim

    @christina I suppose most of the modern insulins have been so modified from the original cow pancreases of Banting & Best that they can be covered by patent protection as there’s enough of an “inventive step”. So if they’re still covered by patents then there will be no generic versions. But what do I know?


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