Walmart Inc. — which like Amazon has been diving deeper and deeper into health care — recently made one of its biggest moves yet in that space by partnering with Novo Nordisk to launch private-label insulin at a steeply discounted cash price. While the new offering still may be too expensive for some and likely won’t solve the overarching insulin-affordability problem, some observers say it’s indicative of how well-poised certain companies are to disrupt the health care industry’s least consumer-friendly practices.

“Insulin is, from a business point of view, attractive to competitors like Walmart — they see a product that has a very big audience that is grossly overpriced, where that audience is stressed and dissatisfied because they don’t believe they’re getting the value that they should be getting,” says Michael Abrams, a principal and co-founder at health care consulting firm Numerof & Associates.

About 34 million Americans, or just over 1 in 10, had diabetes as of 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition comes with estimated medical costs of around $9,601 per year, and the price of insulin has become a particular concern in recent years, with one study finding that the average price of an insulin prescription doubled between 2012 and 2016. Those high costs can be dangerous and even deadly, as news reports and research examining the practice of insulin rationing have illustrated.

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