Eli Lilly to cut prices of insulin drugs by 70%, cap patient costs at $35
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Eli Lilly to cut prices of insulin drugs by 70%, cap patient costs at $35

Jan 18, 2024

Eli Lilly & Co., 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.

The Indianapolis-based company said Wednesday that the 70% price cuts would 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.

The list-price cuts won’t necessarily mean that all people with diabetes will see a corresponding decrease in their out-of-pocket costs for Lilly’s insulin. Many insured patients pay fixed monthly copays that may not immediately change.

Some insured and uninsured patients whose out-of-pocket costs exceed $35 a month should be able to benefit, however, from the changes Lilly is making to its program capping monthly costs.

The American Diabetes Association praised Lilly for its moves and said it encouraged other insulin manufacturers to follow suit.

T1International, an organization advocating for people with Type 1 diabetes, also applauded Lilly’s efforts, but said even Lilly’s reduced list prices may still keep the products out of reach for some patients.

Drugmakers including Lilly, Novo Nordisk A/S and Sanofi SA 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, though 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 speech in February, President 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.

Write to Peter Loftus at [email protected]