The search for insulin: Why it may be hard to find at your local pharmacy

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YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY)– A drug many need to survive appears to be in short supply.

A viewer contacted 10 On Your Side because he couldn’t find the insulin he needs to treat his diabetes.

Robert Montgomery uses Novolog to keep him alive. Recently he couldn’t find it in local pharmacies.

“It definitely affected my life because I got very stressed out when I couldn’t get it,” Montgomery told WAVY.

Novolog is a product of Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer which supplies half of the world’s insulin. 10 On Your Side reached out to the company, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and several local pharmacies to find out what’s going on.

A pharmacist at an independent pharmacy provided some insight, though she asked not to be identified. She said it’s all about money.

Last year drug makers agreed to negotiate with Medicare on the prices of 10 expensive medications including top diabetes drugs.

Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi also announced price caps on insulin that would slash the cost by up to 75%.

According to the pharmacist, that’s when production of expensive drugs slowed down and they became harder to get.

In a statement, Novo Nordisk confirmed it is discontinuing another diabetes drug, Levemir, by the end of the year.

“We made this decision after careful consideration and are confident that given the advanced notice, U.S. patients will have access to alternative treatments and can transition to other options,” Novo Nordisk said in a statement.

The pharmacist told us companies are now pushing out generics, but insurance may not be aware of the new names.

“I didn’t really run out,” Montgomery said. “I had part of a vial left which I rationed out. I didn’t take it like I was supposed to because I had to make it last.”

Montgomery finally found a vial at a local Walmart and is feeling better now.

The pharmacists we talked to said Novolog is expected to be restocked Feb. 1.

The bottom line for patients?

Don’t wait until the last minute to refill your prescription, and talk to your doctor and insurance company now about alternatives to the medication you take. You may need to switch to another medication in this changing pharmaceutical landscape.

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