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Disclaimer: T1D Exchange and the author were not paid to promote Amazon Pharmacy or Novo Nordisk, nor do they endorse the use of Amazon Pharmacy services or Novo Nordisk products. The names of the author’s insurance company, pharmacy, and endocrinologist are not identified for privacy reasons. T1D Exchange and the author are not medical professionals — always consult your healthcare team before making any changes in your diabetes regimen.
How did I not know I could get a huge discount on a generic version of Novolog? I recently found out by chance thanks to Amazon. Yes, that Amazon. My endocrinologist didn’t know either. So, despite Lilly’s recent announcement about the dramatically reduced price of a generic Humalog combined with a potential monthly insulin cap bill passed by the U.S. Senate, we still need more affordable insulin options.
Here, I am sharing my recent experience buying generic Novolog insulin from Amazon.
My current insulin costs
Like many others, my health insurance policy has a single preferred pharmacy. Any other pharmacy is considered out-of-network and no medications will be covered at an out-of-network pharmacy without prior approval.
In January 2023, I was still in the dreaded deductible phase. I used a Novo Nordisk savings coupon with insurance pricing and paid $276 per vial for Novolog at my in-network pharmacy. Here’s a photo of my receipt:
The investigation is triggered
I am an Amazon Prime member. Recently, I received a push notification about their new Rx Pass program, competing with the CostPlus Insulin program. Curiously, I looked up the pricing for Novolog. As I suspected, there would be no advantage, even paying out-of-pocket, to buying my Novolog through Amazon Pharmacy. However, Amazon suggested “insulin aspart” as an alternative — which I knew was really just generic Novolog. So I investigated this option and found that without using my insurance, a vial of insulin aspart would cost significantly less than what I currently pay per vial for Novolog.
To be on the safe side — because I was skeptical — I asked my endocrinologist to verify the following information for me:
- Insulin aspart is in fact the generic name of Novolog.
- Novo Nordisk manufactures both insulin aspart and Novolog.
- Insulin aspart and Novolog are identical insulins.
- The packaging is the only difference.
Insulin aspart through my health insurance
How is it that I never investigated the generic version of my insulin? Of course, then I called my regular pharmacy. I asked them how much they charge for insulin aspart. Without insurance, they sell insulin aspart for $176 per vial — which would have saved me $100 per vial!
Why had the pharmacist never told me about a generic?
“Your insurance doesn’t cover it. It requires a prior authorization from your doctor. It’s not listed in your formulary.”
So, I countered, “But if I had a prescription for insulin aspart, I could pay cash and not use my insurance, correct?”
The answer: Yes.
I relayed this information to my endocrinologist, who proceeded to call my insurance company about the prior authorization. Since insulin aspart is not in my formulary, I would pay $600 for a single vial at my preferred pharmacy! But, they said, it would still count towards my deductible. (I think I’ll pass, but thanks for the offer.) My endocrinologist was just as confused as I was, and she had no idea about Amazon Pharmacy offering the generic.
Getting insulin aspart through Amazon Pharmacy
I set up my Amazon Pharmacy account, which was much simpler than expected. My endocrinologist gladly sent them the prescription for insulin aspart — five vials for 90 days. The finer details took a few days to sort out.
Once that was settled, I selected the cash option using no insurance, and it happened: I ordered and paid $55 per vial of insulin aspart as a Prime member, with no additional shipping costs. I paid with my HSA funds for additional tax savings. I also submitted the receipts to my insurance towards my out-of-pocket deductible.
In summary, here is the comparison of costs I investigated (your costs may vary):
Receiving my insulin
My insulin arrived via next day air. It sat on my doorstep for a few hours before I got home, with the outdoor temperature that afternoon at 55°F. The box was intact and labeled as perishable.
Inside was a well-sealed, thick foil bag. The box of vials in the bag was surrounded by double-layered ice packs. The ice packs are reusable and come with instructions on proper disposal and recycling, too.
I inserted a food thermometer into the box, not touching the ice packs: the temperature steadied after about 20 seconds and read 42°F: a perfect temperature for insulin.
Inside the box, the packaging was indeed similar to my Novolog, and expiration dates were quite reasonable, into 2024.
Will I use Amazon Pharmacy for my insulin again? Absolutely, with no hesitation! My experience was very good. Had I known this in January, I could have saved $1,100 on five vials of insulin. Have you explored or used Amazon Pharmacy? Do you use insulin aspart (generic) and also save money? Please let us know in the comments!
Cristina Jorge Schwarz
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