DCIN has received this question hundreds of times over the last few years. Truthfully, Lantus is actually the cheapest insulin per unit of insulin; the problem lies in the upfront costs. So this article will discuss ways to reduce the upfront cost of Lantus or Levemir.
Let’s talk about Lantus. Lantus is an insulin that was designed for once-per-day use in humans. It turns out that Lantus, when dosed twice per day, is excellent at controlling feline diabetes and getting cats into remission. The generic name for Lantus is insulin glargine. There is no true generic version of Lantus but there is a biosimilar drug that was released in 2016 called Basaglar. Lantus is manufactured by Sanofi which is a profit-driven company.
- Lantus is a U-100 insulin (100 units of insulin per 1 mL of fluid).
- Lantus comes in 10 mL vials or 3 mL pens.
- Lantus is prescription only in the United States, OTC in Canada.
- Lantus should be refrigerated at all times.
- Lantus should be handled gently.
- Lantus that is refrigerated and handled gently can last 3-6 months from date of first use.
The price of Lantus at a pharmacy in the United States is approximately $220 for a vial and $285 for a 5-pack of the pens. Are you suffering from sticker shock? The price of Novolin N or Vetsulin might seem more doable right now but let’s consider these facts.
- Novolin N is $26 at Walmart and Vetsulin is about $45 from your vet.
- Each of them is only good for about 30-45 days from the date of first use.
- Your annual cost for a cat on a typical dose of insulin is $208-$312 for Novalin and $360-$540 for Vetsulin.
- Only the start-up costs are lower. The annual costs are much higher, these insulins have less success at remission, these insulins may require dosing more frequently than every 12 hours.
- The annual price of Lantus is only $285 if you pay retail at a pharmacy.
So now we hopefully have you sold on the idea of buying Lantus (or Levemir or Basaglar) in the pens. What if your vet or pharmacist insists you need the pen needle? You say “no thank you” and buy regular insulin syringes. You treat the pen as you would a vial except that you don’t need to inject any air. There is a small rubber stopper at the end of the pen similar to the rubber stopper on the vial.
Some pharmacies will sell a pen of Lantus, Levemir, or Basaglar individually. Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, BJ’s and Target have all been known to sell individual pens but it does seem to be up to the individual store. You do NOT have to be a member of BJ’s or Costco to use their pharmacy.
You can order from Canada. Many hundreds of people have ordered from Marks Marine Pharmacy (I still have no idea what the name means). Their link is https://canshipmeds.com/. They do ship insulin year round but it best to not order in the extreme cold of winter or heat of summer. It is harder to keep insulin from freezing than it is to keep it cool. Lantus is $165 for a pack of 5 pens. Levemir is $170 for a pack of pens. Shipping for either is $25.
You can order individual pens online from some pet pharmacies. The price per pen is higher than buying a 5-pack from the pharmacy but the overall cost is lower.
Craigslist often has insulin for sale. Usually Lantus, Levemir, or Basaglar are $50-$100/box of 5 pens. Most sellers are usually legitimate (parent or spouse passed away, insulin was changed, etc.). Here are some tips on buying insulin from Craigslist.
- Never send money via PayPal, Western Union, Moneygram, Venmo, etc.
- Ask how the insulin has been stored (don’t prompt with “was this always refrigerated?”).
- Ask if the boxes are sealed and what the expiration date is.
- Meet in a public place.
Check with family and friends that may be diabetic. Many diabetic humans do not use the whole pen because you are never supposed to do two partial doses. So someone that you know and trust may have 10-40 units per pen that would otherwise be tossed in the trash.
Check with online community sharing groups. Many Freecycle groups do not allow medications to be posted but some do. There are numerous community sharing groups online and on Facebook.
Check out the DCIN Facebook page and the pages of any diabetic cat groups that you belong to as many cat owners that have a cat that passed on offer the remaining supplies for low cost or for free.
And just to be thorough and give fair warning, the prescription coupons and savings cards online for Lantus, Levemir, and Basaglar work with very little success. It’s okay to try them, but be prepared for failure.
If you have any questions or run across some other ideas, please message our Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.