March 2, 2023
Eli Lilly—facing pressure to curb diabetes-treatment costs—will cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulin products by 70% and take other steps to make it easier for patients to afford the drugs, reports The Wall Street Journal.
On Wednesday, March 1, the Indianapolis-based company announced that the 70% price cuts will take effect in the fourth quarter for Humalog and Humulin, its two biggest-selling insulin products.
The company also said that on May 1 it would reduce the list price of an unbranded insulin it sells to $25 a vial from $82 a vial—the lowest level for any insulin that diabetes patients take around mealtimes, and less than Lilly’s list price for a Humalog vial in 1999. And it plans to improve a program capping patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month.
“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes,” said Lilly Chief Executive David Ricks.
Drugmakers—including Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi—substantially raised the prices for their insulin products during the 2010s. Now, the products cost hundreds of dollars a month. Humalog currently has a list price of $530 for a five-pack of injection pens and $274 for a vial; although Lilly said most people with commercial insurance and Medicare pay no more than $95 a month.
The manufacturers have said that, while list prices increased, they have had to pay larger rebates to companies that manage drug benefits.
Yet, because of the high prices, people without insurance or with high-deductible health plans can have trouble affording the products—forcing them to ration use.
To ease the burden, some U.S. states have enacted insulin-cost caps in recent years. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act mandated that patients covered by the federal Medicare health-insurance program should pay no more than $35 a month in copays or other out-of-pocket costs for an insulin prescription.
In his State of the Union address in February, President Joe Biden called for that $35 monthly cap to be expanded beyond Medicare to include every diabetes patient.
In addition to reducing the list prices for its top-selling insulins, Lilly said it would introduce on April 1 a new insulin, named Rezvoglar, that is a copycat version of Sanofi’s Lantus insulin. Lilly will list its price at $92 for a five-pack of injection pens, a 78% discount to the list price for Lantus.
The company said it would make improvements to its program, introduced in 2020, to cap insulin out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month. Participating pharmacies will now implement that cap automatically when people with commercial insurance fill their prescriptions, rather than requiring people to present a Lilly savings card.
People without insurance can continue to cap monthly costs at $35 for Lilly insulin products by using a savings card that can be downloaded immediately online, the company said.
Research contact: @WSJ