EMERGENCY: Cheapest insulin and diabetes supplies

What do you do when you can’t afford your expensive analogue insulin this month?

The horrifying story of Shane Boyle made me wonder what the cheapest diabetes supplies for a month would be – I mean rock-bottom, what you would do if you had no other way to stay alive (beyond asking for charity).

This is what I found (no prescription required for any of it, except in one state,Indiana):

  • vial of NPH, for 2x day injection, no prescription required, $25/ vial (Walmart) - maybe 2x per month?

  • vial of Regular, for 3x day injection or more, no prescription required, $25/ vial (Walmart) -maybe 2x per month?

  • syringes (use more than once), 2x per day (one for NPH, one for Regular), no prescription needed if you buy a whole box: Box 100x Reli-on syringes, $17, (Walmart) 1x per month

  • Reli-on lancet, (only use 1 lancet per day) 100 lancets $2 (Walmart) 1/2 box per month

  • Glucose strips, 200x month, reli-on prime $17.88/100 (walmart), 2x boxes per month (that’s 6 per day)

For that, you need, as an upfront investment:

  • reli-on prime meter ($10)
  • Lancet device (about $10)

So, you would be out per month:

  • NPH insulin $50
  • Regular insulin $50
  • syringes $17
  • lancets $1
  • Strips $36

Total supplies per month: $154

In addition, if you are a T2D and also need metformin or other oral meds:

  • Metformin XR (once a day) $4/mo (Walmart)
  • Glyburide/ Glucotrol/ Glimepiride (Sulfonylureas) $4/mo (Walmart) Be careful with them as they can make you low.

The cruel irony of Shane Boyle’s story is that I understand he was within $50 of raising $750 for that month of supplies :frowning:

Note: here are some interesting comments on diabetes on a budget (PDF)

As a note, I often ill-speak of Walmart – but in this case, Walmart is a GREAT resource for people with diabetes.

End of wiki ---------- comments start here


The Walmart lancets I buy cost $3 / 100 and that would probably last me 2 years as I use them now. 1 box would last forever in an emergency. Also, I know we consider them a necessity, but for most of the history of diabetes nobody had glucose strips. I think in a true emergency most of us could survive on one vial of R and one bottle of NPH and maybe 1/10 a box of syringes per month. Also don’t some public health departments etc hand out clean syringes to prevent drug addicts from sharing needles? I think in a real SHTF situation I’d only be testing my bg probably twice a day; fasting and after the largest meal of the day.

The bare minimum necessities for T1 care aren’t out of reach for most people. There are plenty of homeless T1s out there and they manage… but to get all the tools for tight control to minimize long term complications the cost increases exponentially.


5 posts were split to a new topic: OTC Insulin: terrible NPR article

I have found during one episode of unemployment that a couple of the manufacturers of insulin have programs to help with the cost of insulin. I think the assistance program from the makers of Lantus had the best program. They would help you get boxes of Lantus for free. You had to sign up for the program on the Lanus website.

I know that NovoNordisc has a program that will help to reduce your insurance copay by about 50%. Again signup is on the NovoNordisc website.

I found both of these programs by hunting on the web, and through Good Rx. GoodRx will help to find lower cost meds of all types when you don’t have insurance. www.goodrx.com

I don’t know if GoodRx has programs for other countries, but here in the United States it does help


This isn’t strictly a cost thing, but if you’re only taking NPH twice a day, say breakfast and dinner, then you aren’t going to need to take Regular three times a day… The Regular and NPH taken at breakfast are going to cover your lunch without a need for additional insulin. So that lowers your cost slightly, perhaps. Though one essential item I see missing from this list are glucose tablets or other low supplies (probably Rockets/Smarties are the cheapest).


@Jen There might be other issues requiring the extra dose of regular that we are not aware of. I know when I was younger, I had a short period after getting a bad case of the flu that I had to add an extra dose of regular into my routine to regain control of my BS, but that was a limited time thing.


Thanks for the post.

Just so that we are prepared, in case we have to use NPH and Regular

Is there a thread about NPH and Regular, their peak, onset, offset?

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Here is a good thread that includes the graphs of the various insulin onsets/peaks etc. It is about 2/3 of the way through the thread. Good info.


NPH and Regular will keep you alive but their behavior is not easy to predict.

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I think this is true when you are referring to using them at the same time. Many people use R insulin without issue, especially low carb folks, where the R is a better match to their digestion than the faster insulins.

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R really isnt all that different from the analogs… little
Slower onset, little longer tail.
I’d not hesitate to use R if I was broke.

Nph I’ve not used, it sounds like it’s more challenging


Back before I ever agreed to begin MDI insulin therapy, I did some “devil’s advocate” research on what my options would be if I lost my health insurance.
This particular article gave what I still consider to be the best no nonsense advice for dealing with a diminished ability to afford insulin:

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