Eli Lilly to cut insulin prices, cap costs

Drugmaker Eli Lilly on Wednesday announced that it will lower the cost of its most commonly prescribed insulin and expand a cap on out-of-pocket costs for the drugs as pharmaceutical companies face pressure to address high prices.

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Lilly will slash the price of Humalog, the company’s most prescribed insulin, and Humulin by 70% later this year. Beginning May 1, the list price for Lilly’s non-branded insulin will drop to $25 a vial, making it the lowest list-priced mealtime insulin on the market, company officials said.

“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes,” David Ricks, Lilly’s chair and CEO, said in a statement. He added that it will take time to get the price cuts implemented by insurance companies and pharmacies.

Lilly and other drugmakers, including Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, raised prices for their insulins in the 2010s, with products now costing patients hundreds of dollars each month, The Wall Street Journal reported. The drugs have become so expensive that studies have shown that as many as one in six people with diabetes ration their insulin supplies, according to The Indianapolis Star.

Lawmakers have attempted to address the pricing issues. Nearly two dozen states and the District of Columbia have capped insulin prices for people covered by state insurance plans at $25 to $100, CNN reported. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act also capped insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $35 per month. In February, President Joe Biden pushed during his State of the Union address for expanding that cap to every diabetes patient in the country.

On Wednesday, Lilly said it is expanding the Insulin Value Program it launched in 2020 to automatically cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month for insured people buying their prescriptions at participating pharmacies. Previously, people were required to show a Lilly savings card to get the capped price, the Journal reported.

Lilly also announced plans to launch an insulin injection to compete with Sanofi’s Lantus on April 1.

Chuck Henderson, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, applauded Lilly’s announcement in a statement Wednesday and encouraged other insulin manufacturers to follow suit. Biden also praised the announced price cap, noting that insulin “costs less than $10 to make, but Americans are sometimes forced to pay over $300 for it.”

“For far too long, American families have been crushed by drug costs many times higher than what people in other countries are charged for the same prescriptions,” he said in a statement. He added that Lilly’s price cuts are “a big deal, and it’s time for other manufacturers to follow.”

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes while 96 million people aged 18 and older have blood sugar high enough to deem them prediabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 1.6 million people report using insulin to treat their diabetes, the Star reported.

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