Assisting diabetes patients without, insulin makers give back

by Elizabeth Snouffer on 02/18/2012

Don't give up on diabetes.

According to a recent Gallup Poll the U.S. unemployment rate is 9.0%.  If you have diabetes and are unemployed then this may be a tough year.   Not only is unemployment affecting the ability of many patients to adequately care for their health, but Gallup also reported that more American adults lacked health insurance coverage last year than in any year since 2008…”climbing to 17.1% in 2011.”  Nearly 20% of all Americans DON’T have health insurance.

In light of this travesty, and because so many people on diabetes 24-7 Facebook page ask for advice on where to get medical supplies because they are unemployed, broke or without healthcare insurance,  it was time to look into what types of assistance are available from the manufacturers of diabetes supplies, like insulin and test strips.  The results are surprising.

Novo Nordisk comes out on top, as does Eli Lilly and Sanofi-aventis as all three insulin makers have Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs).  The blood glucose meter companies are a rather mixed bag.  Abbott and Accu-Check are tops for having a program – all the others offer discounts, a one-off free pack of strips (25-50) or a free meter as a way to get patients on-board. Not great for those companies who do nothing to help; they should be rated on a public “giving scale.”

PJ Dew, a recently diagnosed type-1 patient, agreed to discuss her experience with the pharmaceutical companies on getting free insulin.  PJ was diagnosed with type 1 at age 40 because of an acute episode of Pancreatitis; she had a Positive GAD test, which meant she wasn’t type 2.  PJ is a veteran, paramedic, and currently employed as a nurse.  Unfortunately when she was diagnosed, PJ  had just started her new job, which meant her health insurance wouldn’t kick in for 90 days.  With a bill over $15,000, she didn’t know what to do.

What PJ found out was her hospital, the Metropolitan Hospital in Byron Center, Michigan, had financial aid for the uninsured, and they gave PJ grants for all consultations, lab work, diabetes education and all medical supplies (test strips, insulin and consumables). What’s more, her doctor introduced PJ to a program where all her insulin is shipped to her for free from the insulin manufacturers.

PJ participated in two programs with the assistance of her doctor.  The first came from the Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance Program, which provides medication to qualifying applicants at no charge.  According to the Novo website, “If the applicant qualifies under the Novo Nordisk PAP guidelines, a three-month (3 month) supply of the requested medication(s) or device(s) will be shipped to the applicant’s licensed practitioner for dispensing.”  PJ also qualified for patient assistance with Sanofi-aventis.  PJ volunteered to answer a few questions about her experience.

1. How did you find out about Patient Assistance?

The information was given to me by the diabetes educator at the hospital.  She had forms for me and my doctor to fill out.  The ability to participate in the program is income based, but Novo Nordisk did state that if you have your doctor write a note that states current financial status does not represent patient need, they will give you the free insulin.  A representative from Novo Nordisk said they won’t turn anyone away.

2. How did you qualify?

I had to fill out the paperwork (only about 1-2 pages) and provide a copy of my last year’s tax return. Then, I took it to my doctor and had him fill out and sign his part. (Yes, he gets a copy of your tax return!) Novo Nordisk requires that the packet be faxed from the doctor’s office fax number or you can send the entire thing snail mail yourself, which takes longer.

3. What did they provide?

From Novo Nordisk, I received free pen needles, free Novolog, and free glucagon. They also have the 70/30 mixes, Humulin-N, Humulin-R, Levemir, and a few others that I can’t remember.  From Sanofi, I received free Lantus. You can get vials or pens. It doesn’t matter, whatever your doctor prescribes, they’ll send it to you.

4. How was it delivered or given to you?

Novo Nordisk and Sanofi-Aventis deliver a 3-month supply to my doctor’s office. The doctor’s office would then call and let me know it was there. After 2 months, both companies sent a reminder that it was time to reorder.

5. How long did they provide the insulin?

They provided it to me for 1-year which is how long I needed it. They will provide it free to you as long as you require.

6. How positive was the experience?

Very positive. Both companies really worked hard to get me what I needed.

7. How difficult was it to apply and process?

The process is not difficult at all.  The doctor actually has a bit more to fill out than you. My doctor is so very “awesome” and had it done in about 1/2 hour after I dropped it off at his office. He actually cares that much!!

8. Did you wait a long time for the service to start?

It took no time at all-within two days of faxing to Sanofi, they had delivered the Lantus to my doctor’s office, and it was 4 days for Novo-Nordisk. Total time from filling out forms to total supply of  insulin, glucagon and  pen needles was about 1.5 weeks.

Thanks PJ for letting us know that there are some avenues for assistance but clearly, working closely with a health care provider is key.  For more information, see links below.


Lilly Patient Assistance Program

Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance

Sanofi-aventis Patient Assistance Program

Test Strips for blood glucose

Abbott has a Patient Assistance Program (PAP).  Download here for the form.

Accu-Check has a Patient Assistance Program, “You must be a qualified, registered patient at one of the identified clinics in order to receive the products.”  There is an interactive map that shows you where these clinics are – so worth investigating this.

Bayer has a discount card, and if you call 1-800-348-8100 – they will send 50 to you for free (but that’s it).

Lifescan (Johnson & Johnson) doesn’t have a program, but they do have a page on their website that suggests calling Rx Assist, listed below.  Essentially they don’t have a program.

RX Assist provides a wealth of information for assistance programs.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rich Sagall February 18, 2012 at 18:54

All the information on pharmaceutical patient assistance programs plus hundreds of other programs is available for free at Each workday 15,000-17,000
people visit our site. We have all the applications on the website.

Our information is ease to access, updated regularly, and free. We gather no information about our users.

You don’t have to pay to apply to these programs. Most are easy to apply to and respond quickly.

We also offer a free drug discount card. No registration is required and anyone is eligible to use it. The average savings is 50% with occasional savings of up to 80% or even more.

Rich Sagall, MD
NeedyMeds, Inc.
P.O. Box 219
Gloucester, MA 01931

Jacquie February 22, 2012 at 07:19

Funny how timely this article is. On the 19th, I took to facebook as a last resort to find some Animas insulin pump supplies. I lost my full-time job some time ago, and my COBRA ran out in July. Currently I am awaiting approval to enroll in the government “patients with preexisting conditions” health insurance plan. Meanwhile, I’m out of Comfort short 23″ insets, and I’m totally broke. The best Animas can do for me is let me have a box of 10 for $78. The way things are for me at the moment, they may as well be asking for $1,000.

Looking for financial assistance for medical equipment is tricky. It has been much easier to find help available for insulin. I agree that NovoNordisk has a robust patient assistance program, for example. However, I submit to you the following related points:

I use Novolog now after having used Humalog for many years. Recently, Novolog became the formulary drug of choice over Humalog, and I was forced to switch so that I would receive the maximum Rx coverage possible through my insurance company. When I lost COBRA, I researched retail costs of insulin brands and types. It is striking that Novolog was available for around $74 per vial just four years ago, and now it costs upwards of $135 no matter where you look. I have to wonder how they justify this increase in price during that short time period, especially since the retail price for Humalog has remained level.

Also…and this is the cynic in me speaking…NovoNordisk has quietly become THE “promotional partner” of JDRF. Consequently nearly every newsletter from JDRF refers to technologies and treatments from NovoNordisk. I find this troubling, honestly, since these “partners” have goals that are diametrically opposed. I find it difficult to reconcile the differences between an organization founded on the premise of “finding the cure” for type 1 diabetes and a pharmaceuticals company that has every reason NOT to want a cure to be found.

Regardless, NovoNordisk’s promotional dollars are well-placed with JDRF. NovoNordisk has many compelling treatments in development and a BIG reason to keep JDRF’s audience alive for as long as possible…specifically, insulin sales. Talk about an annuity customer base! Actually, the scenario resembles more of a hostage situation, but NovoNordisk and JDRF have put a benevolent spin on it that deceives many.

My point in mentioning all of this is that in terms of “karma,” it seems absolutely right that NovoNordisk would have such a generous patient assistance program.

I wanted to also mention that in the article, you posted a link for RxAssist. I believe the link is no good, because I’ve tried accessing the site on three browsers, and it’s the same “page not found” message everywhere.

Regarding…a good jumping off point. I have made careful notes regarding the links available on the site should anyone be interested. The most frustrating thing about being in financial crisis and searching for help is the lack of real assistance available. People who mean well send you to a site full of links to resources and feel like they’ve helped. If only they knew how much time is wasted exploring dead or outdated links…calling numbers for organizations which no longer provide assistance….calling the same organizations listed under different numbers, or going in circles because the links are not checked regularly. I myself wish there was a database for non-profits that compiled all available financial (or other) resources on a daily basis and gave access to case workers at community action associations. It would cut down on wasted time and energy TREMENDOUSLY. I’d have more hair in MY head; that’s for sure.

Anyway, thank you for the article. When I am out of the mess I’m in, I’m going to redirect my creative energy to advocacy. I think it is sorely lacking in this country. The most success I’ve had in procuring the insets I need for my pump has been by asking strangers — type 1 diabetics — if they have any to spare. It shouldn’t be that way. I shouldn’t be facing the ruin of my health because my company shut down.

Elizabeth Snouffer February 22, 2012 at 22:22

Jacquie, Thanks so much for checking in and for sharing your insights. I think you make many valid points. I too feel that advocacy organizations shouldn’t become so closely tied to industry. The only reason I believe they are doing so (especially in JDRF’s case) is because the funding for diabetes research is embarrassingly low. To offer a comparison for readers (and let’s not discuss severity or which diseases are more deserving of the lionshare of funding) see this – Today, type 1 diabetes does not receive the type of funding that will lead to a cure. However, there are so many things that are wrong with the care of type 1 diabetes patients, advocacy group ethics, industry and health insurance regulation that it’s hard to know where to begin. Certainly, it would help if patients took a more active role in self-determination and actively engage for their rights. Thanks again.

Vitaliy July 22, 2012 at 01:38

I have a father that has high blood prrssuee,diabetes and a bad heart (quad bypass). He is married to a lady that has refused to take care of herself and refused to take the fact she is a brittle diabetic. She is soo bad with the refusing to take this diese serious that just this past month, my father had his gall bladder removed due to slugg and gall stones. After the gall bladder was removed he came down with a bad case of Pancreastits doctors claim due to stone stuck in the duct. He was out of it for almost 1 week. During this week his wife only ate 2 lunches, along with bags and bags of potatoe chips. I have this relly bad feely that her brittle diabetes is caused because over the years she has refused to take this diese seriuos. I have now for the last 7 years come to believe this lady has Munchasen Sydrome because of the fact she let her blood sugar rise to 592 and refused to leave the hosptial room to take care of her self. I walked into the room of my father and he was not in the room and she was in his bed and didn’t know where my father was. I have never in their marriage interfered but when all this hit I was fighting her about moving my father to another hospital while he was still dealing with the Pancreatits, my father was not even aware that he was in a hospital that is how delicate and fragile he was). But still she refused to let anyone else take care of my father. So I had her admitted into the hospital due to 592 reading. And the moment I walked into her room to chech on her she tried to get me to hand feed her but she could use her arms to toss and turn in the bed and jump from the bed to the commod to vomit. So I finally had a talk with my father after 1 day of him comming to. And he had told me he has thought there was something not right with her too. So he talked to her about tring to get a doctor to check her out, she blurreted out I’m not crazy and no I will not, I told her she will do this or she had to leave from my fathers house now. I could no longer allow her to care for my father if she refused to take care of herelf. I have decided to take over their meals and food to see if her diabetes can get under controll, because I honestly believe if she tried alittle bit harder and cared about herself she would not have turned into a brittle diabetic. I believe that she had controll of her blood sugar before she meet my father and now she has someone to pitty her, she has let her other diese take over. Their are toooooooo many signs of the Munchausen. Please can someone tell me if I have a chance at this intervention, or am I going to lose my father to this women who doesn’t care about self enough to keep her sugar under controll but rather stay in the hospital all the time and not able to help my father when he needed her the most in his life? I really don’t trust her to take care of my father any more I really don’t even want her to come back to his house. Please help.

Kristina Glorioso March 30, 2013 at 13:54

I am already na part of your assisance program and I thank you very much. I still do not have insurance and am only working part-time. I am having difficulty locating glucose testing strips in a program such as yours. Can you help me?

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