The Skyrocketing Price of Diabetes Medications for Cats

Several years ago, I wrote that one bottle of Lantus insulin costs $100. Now this diabetes medication can cost hundreds of dollars.

Pet parents are at the mercy of greedy Big Pharma when it comes to filling human prescriptions, such as insulin, for their pets. By: pip0ka

Petful readers make great, well-informed pet caretakers. One way I know this is by the feedback I get from readers on my articles.

For example, in July 2012, I wrote about feline diabetes and mentioned that one bottle of Lantus insulin — considered by many veterinarians to be the first insulin choice for diabetic cats — runs about $100.

Well, an avid Petful reader wrote in to tell me she cannot find Lantus for under $285 a bottle for her diabetic kitty. She was correct. In the course of a few short years, the cost of Lantus has more than tripled! “It is very expensive and very crazy,” this reader told me.

Like humans without very good prescription plans (me, for example), pet parents are at the mercy of greedy Big Pharma when it comes to filling human scripts such as insulin for their pets.

Don’t Miss: 10 Good Things About Owning a Diabetic Cat

Here are some simple facts about the cost of treating a feline diabetic today:

  1. Lantus (glargine) is, according to most specialists, the best choice for kitty diabetics.
  2. Newly diagnosed diabetic cats given Lantus as the first insulin have the best chance of remission. This means they may return to being a normal, non-diabetic cat.
  3. Lantus means easier control of diabetes, which translates to fewer trips to the vet, which translates to less money spent.
  4. Lantus is expensive, no matter how you cut it. The product will probably not be available as a generic for several more years.

How Can I Get Lantus as Cheaply as Possible?

A 10ml vial is good for at least 3 to 4 months, maybe longer if handled properly.

Most cats require very little insulin, so some of the insulin will go to waste, even if it lasts for 6 months. Pharmacists may tell you that you can use the bottle only for one month. They are wrong. This is the human usage instruction. Veterinary specialists have tested the insulin, and it stays effective for at least 3 to 4 months, often longer.

Your pharmacist might talk you into Lantus Solostar “pens.” These are 3ml pens that are sold in bundles of 5. The bundle of pens is more expensive than the 10ml vial, but the insulin will definitely stay stable and not expire. Some pharmacies, I am told, will sell only one pen at a time. It’s a good deal if you can find it. Local, privately owned pharmacies may be your best bet.

Talk with your vet if you want to try the insulin pen. The delivery system is not designed for a cat. Most specialists recommend that you have your vet put the insulin in a sterile vial and withdraw your insulin from that vial. You can check it out on YouTube.

Here’s one example:

Glargine insulin (a generic Lantus) can be compounded at a special pharmacy in smaller amounts. Many veterinary specialists worry about the quality of compounded insulin. Most experts don’t recommend using compounded glargine insulin. You can try to get Lantus through a Canadian pharmacy. You can get creative and find a friend with a diabetic cat and split the bottle!

Take-Home Tips for the Diabetic Kitty Parent

Thank you to my reader for calling the rising price of Lantus to my attention. I am unhappy for my diabetic patients, but thankful that I was able to update my knowledge of insulin pharmacy prices. Since then, I have been researching cheaper, reliable ways to get kitties their insulin.

It’s a greedy pharmaceutical industry out there, and it’s getting worse all the time. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers have also changed the game on generic drugs, some commonly prescribed drugs for pets increasing by 300 to 400%! Buyer beware.

Don’t Miss: 10 Things That Make Your Vet Go Bat Crap Crazy

Please report any abrupt or significant change in a prescription price to your vet. She may not be aware of a huge price hike in what has been a reasonably priced drug.

  • Diagnose, treat and monitor diabetic cats early. Anywhere from 30 to 90% of cats will return to normal with early diagnosis and treatment.
  • Healthy diets, proper weight management, diabetic monitoring and treatment of concurrent conditions are all imperative to a successful outcome for a diabetic kitty. Getting your cat on the right track early can save you a lot of money and add years to Sugarfoot’s life.
  • Check out for advice on diets and at-home monitoring. Yes, you can use over-the-counter cat foods like Fancy Feast, as long as they are high-quality protein and very low carbs.
  • Ten “great” vets will treat feline diabetes in 10 great, but different, ways. Have an open and trusting dialogue with your own vet and veterinary techs. This is key.

Next, in Part 2 of this article, I share some more reader feedback — this time on the heartbreak of Lyme disease.

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

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