Pandemic Decreases Average Number of Weekly Insulin Prescription Fills

Prescription fills decreased most significantly in a subgroup of adults.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a “considerable” decrease in the average number of weekly insulin prescription fills in patients with diabetes, according to research results published in JAMA Network Open.1

In a cross-sectional study, researchers used pharmacy claims data from a random sample of patients with diabetes and at least 1 insulin claim between January 2019 and October 2020—excluding the week of March 16, 2020 and weeks with national holidays—in order to evaluate if and how the pandemic changed the number of new and existing insulin fills in adults and children with diabetes.

Overall, 285,343 individuals met inclusion criteria (mean age, 56.6±18.5 years; 51.9% women). Prior to the pandemic, the weekly number of insulin prescriptions steadily increased, with a baseline average count of 17,037.5 existing prescriptions in the first week of 2019. Between that time and the start of the pandemic, the estimated number of insulin prescriptions increased significantly each week by 11 (95% CI, 2.8-19.3). During the first week of the pandemic, the mean number of prescriptions decreased by -395.6 per week (95% CI, -933.5 to 142.4).

The pandemic, according to researchers, was also associated with a significant decrease in the estimated weekly mean of insulin prescriptions in a subgroup of adults, but not in children or those with new prescriptions.

Study limitations include those inherent to retrospective research, the descriptive nature of the study, and a lack of data allowing researchers to adjust “for an association of mortality with the reduced number of insulin fills.”

“We believe that these findings contribute to a better understanding of the association of the pandemic with insulin treatment for diabetes,” the researchers concluded. “Future studies should examine whether the pandemic was associated with adverse health outcomes associated with suboptimal insulin treatment.”

Reference

  1. Yunusa I, Love BL, Cai C, et al. Trends in insulin prescribing for patients with diabetes during the pandemic in the US. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(11):e2132607. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.32607