Taking diabetes medicine is a daily reality for more than 30 million Americans. Diabetes medications help people with diabetes maintain appropriate levels of blood sugar. The exact medications you need depend on the type of diabetes you have, any other health conditions you have and the steps you are taking to manage your diabetes in other ways, such as with diet and exercise.
Those with Type 1 diabetes are unable to make insulin. Insulin helps your body use glucose, or sugar. Without insulin, your body cannot process glucose, so you end up with too much glucose in your blood, and your blood sugar is too high. That is why many people with Type 1 diabetes use an insulin pen to keep their blood sugar levels stable.
Those with Type 2 diabetes can still make insulin, but their bodies are no longer able to process glucose well. Those with type 1 diabetes typically know early in life, but Type 2 diabetes usually develops later in life. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be managed without using common Type 2 diabetes medications, but it varies depending on the individual.
About Common Diabetes Medications and What They Do
The cost of insulin is a concern for people with Type 1 diabetes, as it is a medication they need since they do not make insulin themselves. Some people with Type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin to manage their diabetes.
About Type 1 Diabetes Medications
New diabetes medications are often developed for Type 2 diabetes, but fewer are available for those with Type 1. One newer medication for people with Type 1 is pramlintide. Pramlintide is injected just before meals and helps to control blood sugar by delaying how long it takes for your stomach to empty. It also reduces appetite.
Insulin is the most common diabetes medicine for those with Type 1 diabetes. Insulin can be delivered with:
- Automatic pumps.
- Artificial pancreas systems.
Insulin also comes in several forms, including rapid-acting, intermediate-acting, long-acting and combination insulins, such as Humalog Mix 75/25.
Learn About Type 2 Diabetes Medications
Most Type 2 diabetes medications are taken by mouth rather than by injection. Common Type 2 medications include:
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors such as Precose and Glyset. These help your body break down sugars.
- Biguanides, such as metformin, which decreases how much sugar your liver makes.
- DPP-4 inhibitors such as Januvia and Janumet. These diabetes medications reduce blood sugar and help the pancreas make insulin.
- Glucagon-like peptides such as Bydureon and Ozempic.These increase B-cell growth, decrease your appetite, slow stomach emptying and increase how much insulin is used by your body.
- Sulfonylureas such as tolazamide and glyburide. These stimulate the pancreas, encouraging your body to increase insulin production.
People with both types of diabetes may take other prescriptions as well, such as prescriptions to manage cholesterol or high blood pressure. This is because diabetes causes a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to Save Money on Discount Diabetes Medicine
The cost of insulin and other medications along with testing supplies costs people with diabetes thousands of dollars each year. Here are several ways to save money on your diabetes medicine.
Tip 1. Talk to Your Doctor
If your medications are costing you too much, talk to your doctor and see if there are any less expensive options. For example, long-acting insulin pens may be more expensive than intermediate-acting pens, but you might be able to use either to manage your blood sugar. Syringes may be even cheaper than pens.
While you are at the doctor’s office, ask whether he or she has any samples. If so, that will save you at least a few dollars, and maybe more, on your medications.
Tip 2. Talk to Your Pharmacist
Your pharmacist can help you determine whether it is cheaper to use your health insurance to purchase your medications or just pay out-of-pocket. Surprisingly, it is sometimes cheaper to buy prescriptions outright rather than use your insurance.
Tip 3. Join a Discount Program
There are several discount programs that can help you with current or new diabetes medications. The National Council of Aging offers one, and several other non-profit organizations do as well.
Tip 4. Shop Around
There are several apps and websites that will help you find the cheapest pharmacy to purchase your diabetes prescriptions.
Tip 5. Contact the Drug Manufacturer
Some drug manufacturers offer discount programs that allow you to obtain insulin for free or at a significant discount.
Tip 6. Look into Community Programs
Some communities offer assistance to low-income and senior individuals. Contact your local department of aging or health to find out what programs are available in your area.
Tip 7. Use Online or Mail-Order Pharmacies
Some online pharmacies may allow you to order diabetes medications or supplies in bulk. Make sure you are using a reputable pharmacy, though. You may also be able to get your prescriptions by mail at a discount.
Tip 8. Look for a Clinical Trial
Clinical trials offer free care during the trial and you have the opportunity to try new diabetes medications.
Unrecommended Ways to Save Money on Diabetes Medications
With the high cost of diabetes medicine, it is understandable that some take extreme measures to save on prescription costs.
Regardless of the cost, it is very risky to try to save money by rationing your diabetes medication. This is especially important for Type 1 diabetics, who are unable to produce insulin. If you do not take insulin, your body cannot break down glucose, and your body will start breaking down your body’s fat as fuel, which releases ketones into the body.
This leads to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. High levels of ketones are toxic, and in the worst-case scenario, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to death.
Even if you have Type 2 diabetes, it is important to take your medication as prescribed. Not taking your medication leads to high blood sugar, which leads to other complications such as heart disease and nerve damage.
If you are having trouble paying for your diabetes medicine, it is critical to reach out for help. Your health and well-being are worth it.