Insulin prices have been all over the news recently. So many people are unable to afford the insulin they need to survive, leading to rationing and illegal smuggling of the drug from other countries, like Canada and Mexico, where the prices are lower than in the U.S. There have been numerous reports of deaths and serious health crises following insulin rationing, and several people were put in tough situations during the government shutdown earlier this year, when federal employees with diabetes had no way to know when their next paycheck would come so that they could buy more insulin.
Now Eli Lilly, one of the few big-name insulin producers, is responding to the public outcry with a positive change—and a big one. The pharmaceutical giant just announced that it will be releasing a new lower-priced insulin.
“We’ve engaged in discussions about the price of insulin with many different stakeholders in America’s health care system: people living with diabetes, caregivers, advocacy groups, health care professionals, payers, wholesalers, lawmakers, and leading health care scholars,” said David A. Ricks, Lilly’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Solutions that lower the cost of insulin at the pharmacy have been introduced in recent months, but more people need help. We’re eager to bring forward a low-priced rapid-acting insulin.”
The new man-made fast-acting generic insulin, called Insulin Lispro, is molecularly identical to Humalog, but it will only cost 50 percent of the price of Humalog. Normally, a vial of insulin in the United States costs about $350, although there is some variation in that. Insulin Lispro’s list price for a vial will be $137.35. The list price of a five-pack of KwikPens will be $265.20.
“The significant rebates we pay on insulins do not directly benefit all patients. This needs to change,” Ricks said. “There are numerous ideas, including the rebate reform proposal from HHS. For people with diabetes, a lower-priced insulin can serve as a bridge that addresses gaps in the system until a more sustainable model is achieved.”
The Lilly subsidiary ImClone Systems will be making the authorized generic medication, and Lilly is working with supply chain partners to get the insulin available in pharmacies as quickly as possible. However, the pharmaceutical giant recognizes that there is more work yet to be done to help people afford the insulin and other medications they need to survive.
“While this change is a step in the right direction, all of us in the health care community must do more to fix the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for Americans living with chronic conditions,” Ricks said. “We hope our announcement is a catalyst for positive change across the U.S. health care system.”
Lilly donates to charitable organizations that provide free medicine, including insulin, to patients meeting program eligibility requirements, and in 2016, it released its first follow-on biologic basal insulin, which was priced significantly lower than the branded competition. Thanks to Eli Lilly’s efforts to lower prices, the net price per prescription for the class of basal insulins in the U.S. has decreased by approximately 30 percent.
If you believe Insulin Lispro may be the right option for you, talk to your doctor about it or call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at (833) 808-1234. The center also offers information about other ways to lower the cost of your insulin. Talking to your insurance provider may also be useful in determining the best solution for your needs.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?