Insulin Without a Prescription
Many people do not realize that they can buy insulin without a prescription. But it’s possible to buy insulin over the counter (OTC), or without a prescription, in all states except Indiana.
This less expensive option exists for people caught between a diabetes diagnosis and the difficulty of having inadequate, or no health insurance. Also for people who are on vacation and loose their insulin and can not get another.
If you do not know how to administer the insulin safely, every pharmacist should know how. If not, RUN! To another pharmacist
The insulins available without a prescription are not generics of up-to-date brand name insulins. They are older, less concentrated formulations:
R, or Regular insulin which is short-acting, and
N insulin, an intermediate-acting version that is taken twice daily.
No long-acting OTC insulin is available for people requiring basal doses. So, please do not compare dosages. If you take insulin once a day, you will need to take “N” twice a day, at least.
The FDA points out that these older insulin formulas, used successfully for more than 60 years, were approved for OTC sale since they “did not require a licensed medical practitioner’s supervision for safe use.” Their availability is intended to increase patient safety by making insulin obtainable “quickly in urgent situations, without delays.”
- An incorrect administration (e.g., wrong dosing, poor timing) may lead to erratic glucose levels, and potentially fatal high or low blood sugar episodes. Solution, you will need to check your glucose levels more often.
- The level of daily glucose control people obtain using OTC insulin is questionable. Though the drug quality is high, it takes longer to metabolize in the body than newer versions. This means users of R and N insulins need to maintain stability in their diet and daily activities—something they may not be aware of, or are unable to manage. Solution, more protein in your diet, and eat as close as you can to the same time each day.
“They [patients] need to know what they are doing and understand the units, timing, and type of insulin,” says George Grunberger, PhD, president of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. “It comes down to this—will the patient be able to achieve glucose control safely?”
Yet, despite the cautions associated with OTC insulin use, the medical consulting firm IMS Health reports approximately 15 percent of those who purchase insulin get it without a prescription.
Some insulin users can look forward to cutting costs with biosimilar insulins. A biosimilar called Basaglar should be available by the end of this year; savings of about 15 to 20 percent are anticipated.
Bosimilar drugs are nearly exact replicas of previously approved medications. Basaglar, for instance, is a copy of the insulin glargine, popularly known as Lantus. More cost saving biosimilar insulins will be coming down the pike as original drug patents expire.
Please share with family and loved ones. If you are having concerns about your personal healthcare, please call us.
Health and Wellness Associates
- P. Carrothers