• The Advocate

Can you get insulin legally without a prescription? The answer is yes!

Updated: Oct 14, 2019


In the last two years there has been intensified scrutiny and outcry against pharmaceutical companies that make insulin. There is currently a lawsuit against the three top makers of insulin in the US who are accused of price gouging. While the lawsuit has lost much of its original force, it has at least shamed Eli Lilly into offering a half-price version of their generic insulin. But even with the discounted price, it costs $137 per vial. This is shameful considering that insulin is an off-patent medication and there has been no recent innovation in the manufacture of insulin to account for its increased price year after year.


The greed of the pharmaceutical industry and subsequent death of diabetics is unfortunate in light of the original intent of the Nobel Prize winners who discovered insulin. In 1921, Canadian researchers isolated the insulin hormone in a lab and later sold the patent to the University of Toronto for $3 because they wanted it to be available to all who needed it.

Insulin is the treatment for Diabetes, which is condition where the body is unable to do one of three things: make its own insulin, make insulin in appropriate quantities, or overcome resistance to insulin. Insulin is needed to help the body utilize blood glucose from foods we eat by helping glucose to get into our cells for energy use. If we are unable to utilize the sugars from our foods, we end up with very high sugar levels which can result in lethargy, coma, and even death.


Type 1 Diabetics need to inject insulin daily to survive and many Type 2 Diabetics with advanced disease also need insulin. However, the price of insulin has increased to the point where some diabetics have died because they were unable to afford their medications. Currently, the cost of insulin ranges from $90 - $300 for a 10mL vial. Each diabetic needs multiple vials per month. Without insurance coverage, they can easily spend over $1000 per month on insulin alone.


One affordable option is to purchase insulin at Walmart. This is available without prescription and at an affordable price. For example, this morning I spoke to a Pharmacist at the Walmart in the City of Perris and was told that 1 vial of Novolin 70/30 is available over the counter for a little less than $25. Technically, you still need to speak with the Pharmacist but you will not be required to produce a prescription for the drug.


This is useful for individuals who are having difficulty getting in to see their healthcare provider for a refill or those with no source of healthcare and hence no continuous diabetes care. But Insulin must be used with caution. This drug, if taken in the wrong quantity, can result in a lack of therapeutic effect if the dose is too small, or can result in life-threatening low blood sugar and even death, if the dose is too large. This is not a drug to play around with. So if you have a healthcare provider, still go ahead a let them prescribe your insulin as they will determine your dose based on your individual factors. You should never purchase insulin and determine your own dose without the guidance of a healthcare provider.

Insulin users must be aware of the signs of sub-therapeutic medication effect (ie. Continuously high sugar levels despite insulin use) or the signs of having too much insulin injected. Insulin users must check their blood sugar as advised by their healthcare provider and promptly report any result that is abnormal.


If you must purchase insulin without a prescription, remember you will also need other supplies including the insulin injection needles, a glucometer, lancets and strips. You must also have a sharps container for proper disposal of needles. Remember to keep all medications and equipment out of reach of children and mentally impaired adults.


Need help finding affordable prescriptions or accessing medications under your health plan? Call us at 951-543-9941 or email us at ubuntuhealthadvocates@gmail.com


Compare the costs of insulin types here: https://www.goodrx.com/blog/how-much-does-insulin-cost-compare-brands/


Read about the effects of the high cost of insulin here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/01/07/feature/insulin-is-a-lifesaving-drug-but-it-has-become-intolerably-expensive-and-the-consequences-can-be-tragic/


Get information about Patient Assistance Programs to pay for meds and supplies here:

https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/PrescriptionDrugCovGenIn/PAPData.html


If you are uninsured/undocumented/underinsured and need help with medication costs, you can find a free clinic near you by clicking here:

https://nafcclinics.org/find-clinic Or by visiting a Federally Qualified Health Center. Find one near you by clicking here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/

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