Walmart Is Offering a More Affordable Brand of Insulin

Walmart store

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Key Takeaways

  • Walmart’s ReliOn NovoLog is a new, low-cost insulin for people with diabetes.
  • For people without insurance, ReliOn NovoLog is up to 75% cheaper than competing products.
  • Walmart offers two other types of low-cost insulin through their ReliOn brand, which are made with an older technology.

People with diabetes now have access to a low-cost insulin from Walmart. The multinational retail corporation on Tuesday released its private brand of analog insulin, ReliOn NovoLog

Walmart said the private brand insulin offers an affordable solution for people struggling to pay for diabetes treatments as its prices are up to 75% lower than those of competing products.

ReliOn NovoLog is a short-acting insulin, which people typically take before meals to help people regulate spikes in blood sugar. Short-acting insulins are taken multiple times a day, usually before meals, and produce spikes or peaks in blood sugar.

Other types of insulin, like long-acting insulins, may be taken less often, and more steadily regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day. Short-acting and long-acting insulins are typically taken alongside each other.

Characteristics of Different Insulin Types
Type of insulin Onset (time it takes to reach the bloodstream Duration Peak Brand and generic names
Rapid-acting 15 minutes 2 to 4 hours  After 1 hour Apidra (insulin glulisine), Admelog, Humalong (insulin lispro), Fiasp, NovoLog (insulin aspart)
Short-acting 30 minutes 3 to 6 hours Between 2 and 3 hours Humulin R, Novolin R, Velosulin R (human regular)
Intermediate-acting 2 to 4 hours 12 to 18 hours At 4 to 12 hours Humulin N, Novolin N, ReliOn (NPH)
Long-acting Reaches bloodstream several hours after injection 24 hours or longer N/A Toujeo (glargine u-300), Levemir (detemir), Basaglar, Lantus (glargine)
Ultra-long acting 6 hours 36 hours N/A Tresiba (degludec)

ReliOn NovoLog comes in a pen or a vial and will be available at Walmart pharmacies this week and in Sam’s Club pharmacies starting in mid-July in the United States.

“Now that Walmart is offering a better, more effective, safer [product], it’s really an awesome option for those patients that are paying a lot out of pocket already for their insulin, cutting insulin doses, or going without insulin,” Stephanie Redmond, PharmD, CDCES, BC-ADM, cofounder and vice president of Diabetes Doctor, tells Verywell.

People with diabetes can incur high medical costs, at an estimated $9,601 a year per person, according to the American Diabetes Association.

“We know many people with diabetes struggle to manage the financial burden of this condition, and we are focused on helping by providing affordable solutions,” Cheryl Pegus, MPH, executive vice president of Walmart Health & Wellness, said in the press release. “We also know this is a condition that disproportionately impacts underserved populations.”

How Many Vials of Insulin Do People With Diabetes Need?

Most types of insulin come in 10 milliliter (mL) vials and contain 1,000 units of insulin. While dosage varies from person to person, a vial of this size will typically facilitate 20 to 30 injections. Insulin pens usually contain 300 units of insulin and facilitate about 6 to 10 injections.

People with Type 1 diabetes usually start with two injections of two different types of insulin per day and generally progress to 3-4 injections of different types per day. Most people with Type 2 diabetes may need one injection per day without any diabetes pills. Some may need a single injection of insulin in the evening along with diabetes pills. Sometimes diabetes pills stop working, and people with Type 2 diabetes may progress from single to 3-4 injections of insulin per day.

Walmart’s private-brand insulin will cost $72.88 per vial and $85.88 per FlexPen for people without insurance. This may benefit people who have no health insurance or have a high deductible for medications.

While Walmart’s short-acting insulin is an affordable alternative, getting on a health insurance plan with a low deductible is the most cost-sustainable option for people who have access to one, Redmond says. Further, patients with diabetes often have to take both short-acting and long-acting insulins, so they will still need to find and pay for the latter.

Walmart already offers two kinds of insulins, Regular (R) insulin and NPH insulin, which are short-acting and intermediate-acting insulins, respectively. They are even more affordable than the new ReliOn NovoLog, but there is no pen option. And unlike the latest product, these are not analog insulins and are of lower quality, Redmond suggests.

The R and NPH insulins are considered lower quality because they have a less predictable peak, meaning it can be harder for a doctor to advise their patient on the best time to take a dose, she adds. This can increase the risk of dangerously low blood sugar.

What This Means For You

If you rely on short-acting insulin to treat your diabetes, you can now get a low-cost option from Walmart.

“There's almost never a scenario where I could tell you that I thought [the Walmart R or NPH insulin] was the best insulin for [a patient]; it was purely because they couldn't afford it,” Redmond says.

Still, insulin can be life or death, she adds. For those people, making sure they have access to brands like Walmart’s ReliOn is essential.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Redmond says. “Even though it's not going to benefit all diabetics, it certainly could be a lifesaver for so many.”

1 Source
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  1. American Diabetes Association. Insulin routine.

By Claire Wolters
Claire Wolters is a staff reporter covering health news for Verywell. She is most passionate about stories that cover real issues and spark change.