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Here’s How to Save on Diabetes Medication Januvia

by Tori Marsh on February 8, 2018 at 12:14 pm

Between the supplies, the physician visits, and the prescription medications, treating diabetes can be expensive. In fact, the average patient spends an average of $7,900 per year to treat their diabetes. Doctors consistently report that the high costs for diabetes medications can result in low levels of adherence, so it is important for patients to find ways to save.   

For many people, Januvia (sitagliptin) is unaffordable. The average retail price for a 30-day supply is around $500. Some similar (but not exactly the same) drugs are available as inexpensive generics, but Januvia isn’t expected to have a generic for some time.

Here’s all you need to know about Januvia, and how to keep your costs down.

When will generic Januvia be available?

Unfortunately, not soon. While some patents for Januvia expired in April 2017, the patents for the basic component of Januvia don’t expire until 2022. So, prepare to wait at least another four more years.

How popular is Januvia?

Januvia is the most popular gliptin diabetes medication, a class that includes Tradjenta and Onglyza.  Since its approval from Merck in 2006, Januvia has been a commercial success, generating $5.9 billion in sales last year including its counterpart Janumet (a combination drug consisting of Januvia and metformin).

Is Januvia worth it?

While Januvia may be more expensive for you, some doctors prefer Januvia over more affordable options for diabetes like glyburide and glipizide. Why? Patients who take Januvia don’t have to deal with the risk of low blood sugar and weight gain that is a common symptom of other diabetes medications. This is a benefit for many patients, but there is a downside: the cost.

Many insurance plans don’t cover Januvia because there are somewhat similar generic alternatives, leaving many patients on the hook for that $500 monthly payment. And for many people paying $500 out-of-pocket every month is not sustainable. More on how to save below.

Are there any safety warnings for Januvia?

In 2015 the FDA released a safety warning for all gliptin diabetes medications. Januvia and other gliptins have been reported to cause severe and disabling joint pain in some patients. According to the FDA, discontinuing the medication resolved the symptoms, but the joint pain did return if the same medication, or another gliptin, was restarted.

If you take Januvia, or another gliptin, and start to experience any joint pain, contact your doctor. However, do not discontinue the use of your gliptin unless directed by your doctor.

Are there any other alternatives?

Drugs in the sulfonylureas class, like Glucotrol (glipizide), glyburide, and Amaryl (glimepiride) work to help your body stimulate more insulin, and are commonly used for the treatment of diabetes. All of these come in pill form, just like Janumet, so you don’t have to worry about using an injectable. However, just like we mentioned above, drugs in this class can cause low blood sugar, requiring you to check your sugar levels at least 2 to 5 times a week. Additionally, sulfonylureas can also cause weight gain. The upside? They are much more affordable because many of these medications have generic alternatives. Expect to pay around $20 for a 30-day supply.

Glucophage (metformin) is another possible alternative, and it is likewise affordable; cash prices for metformin average to around $27 per month, and many can even get your prescription for free by shopping around on GoodRx. Metformin is the first choice medicine to control your blood sugar, as it can lower your A1C levels by as much as 2%. However, metformin may not be for everyone – your doctor can help you decide if it’s right for you.

Are you taking Januvia and metformin? It might be worth talking to your doctor about Janumet – a combination drug consisting of Januvia and metformin. While still not affordable, as cash prices average out to $515 for a 30-day supply, it’s better than paying for both Januvia and metformin.

Remember to discuss any of these options with your doctor, as you will need a new prescription if you decide to switch from Januvia.

How can I save?

  • Use a GoodRx Coupon. GoodRx offers discounts for Januvia online. While this may not make it affordable for everyone, a coupon can still knock at least 15% off the full retail price. Any little bit counts.
  • Manufacturer coupon. Januvia’s manufacturer, Merck, offers a program to help reduce your out-of-pocket costs to as little as $5 per month. This manufacturer program is only for commercially insured patients, so be sure to check the program website here to ensure that you are eligible.  
  • Patient assistance program. Manufacturer Merck also offers a savings program for uninsured eligible patients. The program, Merck Helps, can help you receive your medication at no cost. Most people without insurance and limited incomes will qualify. See program restrictions here for more information about eligibility, and how to apply.
  • Split a higher dosage pill. This can help you decrease costs, especially since all strengths of Januvia are priced similarly. You’ll want to ask your doctor to make sure this is safe and a good option for you.

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