Why are insulin pumps more expensive than used cars?

precisely! And insurance companies pay a lot too, but certainly at their contracted (reduced) price–not the “retail” price.

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Pumps are cheap compared to the material that we consume during their lifetime: infusion sets, serters, reservoirs, batteries, belt clips, sensors. In essence, they should be giving the pumps away for free, same as the blood sugar meters are given for free nowadays.


The expense covers a great many things.

  1. Manufacture cost, obviously.
  2. Company profits.
  3. Company overhead (the lights, the IT department, and all of the other stuff not directly involved in making pumps).
  4. Research and Development, which leads to newer, better, fancier pumps.
  5. FDA (and other countries) testing/trials, which can cost millions.
  6. The costs to run the 24-hour support lines pump companies maintain.
  7. The maintenance overhead from replacing in-warranty pumps.
  8. Marketing and promotions.
  9. Insurance processing, paperwork, and discounts.

Now, your car probably has many of the same costs. But they sell way more cars than Medtronic can sell insulin pumps. So those costs get spread out, leading to a smaller cost per unit sold (except for the actual manufacture costs).

Also, many of the repair, maintenance, and support costs are actually assumed by local dealerships and so less of that comes back to the Honda corporation, for example.

Yes, they are way too expensive. But there’s more than one reason for that. And no easy way to fix it in the USA. Not without some major changes to how we handle health care, at least.


J&J closed down the animas brand because it was not profitable and had no potential of being significantly profitable…

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And you are making up for the lower costs they charge people in less fortunate countries. The MM pump costs 1/2 as much in Ukraine, but the average wage of a teacher, or even a doctor, there is less than roughly $100 USD a month. And even when they had single payer insurance, they didn’t cover pumps or supplies. In fact, even today, you get mostly animal insulins.

@Terry4 I have some experience in that department. Originally approved for DME pump supplies, but not the pump. Sort of a head scratcher moment. I did think about obtaining a pump elsewhere, but it feels like buying a used car in a dark alley…

It can feel that way but there are honest people out there.

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I suspect Medtronic is turning a profit somewhere in the chain.

Possibly that profit is on the pump supplies and not the pumps, though. (See also most gaming systems, where the console is sold at cost to get you to pay for the profitable games.)

I mean, the reservoirs and infusion sets can’t cost more than a few dollars at most to produce once the production lines are up and running. And they list for roughly $1,000 / month in the US before insurance.

But yeah, I agree that the pumps are probably not profitable on their own.

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Kind of like cell phone providers. Give you a cheap phone, kill you on the monthly charges.

Medtronic’s 10 year operating margin has been between 26.53% and 16.71% - their operating margin has been in 5-year decline. The average rate of decline per year is -8.9%.

Jan 2018 margin is 19.35% - so they make roughly $0.19 on every dollar of product they sell, pumps and supplies together.

But don’t worry - their sales keep increasing. The last report I saw on 2/2018 was a 7% increase.

Yes. Medtronic PLC. They included all 4 groups. I don’t have separate data on just the diabetes group. Take the numbers as an average.

Used Cars-- Dime a dozen–Ever try to buy a used Insulin Pump/ would you want to?

I had a weird situation with the C-peptide thing. Like you, it was one tenth above the Medicare regulation for getting a pump. In my case, that should not have mattered as my secondary, not supplemental, didn’t care about Medicare standards. If my doc prescribed it, they would completely cover the whole cost. They only needed the denial from Medicare. BUT, the pump distributors would not submit my info to Medicare because they knew I would be denied. The pump companies couldn’t do it because they were not ‘in program’ with my secondary, thus the need to go to distributors, who would not submit my info to Medicare, etc, etc,etc. A total catch 22. The only thing that saved me was that a new C-peptide test came back with a low enough score. My pancreas has lost more function, thus good news.


One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the huge liability insurance premiums that every drug and medical device company needs to CYA. Every day it seems I see commercials for lawyers asking if we have had amputations while taking Invokana, or ovarian cancer from using talcum powder, etc, etc. I’m sure there’s a long line of lawyers ready to take down Medtronic and Tandem for problems patients experienced while using their pumps. That’s a huge drain on the corporate pocketbook.

Oh.My.Word…you’re me!:grinning:. EXACT same insurance song and dance! Word for word! I spent four months on the phone with both carriers and even Medicare didn’t have it right. Finally some kind lady at Solara told me about the C Pep requirement. Four Medicare CSMs told me me that was outdated and not needed. Oops, guess they don’t know their own rules.

I’m so happy you cleared their hurdle with your last test. :+1: It would be such a financial ease to have my carrier help with a little of the costs. It’s be nice to not have to worry about spending nearly my mortgage on diabetes despite dual coverage.:frowning:️ But, on the positive, I’m managing and still alive so it’s just another quirk in my journey.:grin:

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Yes, but maybe with one difference. My fed BC/BS doesn’t care about Medicare regulations, they would pay for it even without Medicare qualification. On a three-way conference with Solara, BC/BS and me, the insurance lady told Solara that my pump cost would be covered 100% because my doctor said I need it. But just wanted a denial from Medicare as a technical/paperwork issue. But pump distributors won’t submit anything to Medicare if Medicare would deny it. Total catch 22. Did I understand that your insurance company is a secondary, not a supplement, and that they still follow Medicare regulations?
Eventually it was my family practice doctor, not diabetes center, that did a new C-peptide test.

So, also maybe you are like me, in that if your C-peptide is on the low side, your problem is not insulin resistance but you pancreas isn’t making much insulin. So using a pump may help keep your pancreas from declining, but you need your pancreas to decline so that you can get a pump!

So, also maybe you are like me, in that if your C-peptide is on the low side, your problem is not insulin resistance but you pancreas isn’t making much insulin. So using a pump may help keep your pancreas from declining, but you need your pancreas to decline so that you can get a pump!

That is SO FOOD FOR THOUGHT! Thank you! Knowing my quirky body and it’s Lupus weirdness, that would and could work. Can’t hurt at this point, right!:laughing::+1: