Eli Lilly & Co., under pressure to curb the cost of diabetes treatment, will cut list prices for the 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 top-selling insulin products.
The company also said on May 1 it would lower the list price of an unbranded insulin it sells from $82 per vial to $25 per vial, the lowest level for any insulin patients take around meals, and less than Lilly’s list price for a Humalog vial in 1999. And it plans to improve a program that limits patients’ out-of-pocket costs to $35 a month.
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“The aggressive price cuts we are announcing today should really make a difference for Americans with diabetes,” said Lilly Chief Executive David Ricks.
The list price reductions don’t necessarily mean that all people with diabetes will see a corresponding drop in their out-of-pocket costs for Lilly’s insulin. Many insured patients pay fixed monthly copays that may not change immediately.
However, some insured and uninsured patients whose out-of-pocket costs exceed $35 per month should benefit from changes Lilly is making to its program to reduce monthly costs.
The American Diabetes Association praised Lilly for her steps and said it encouraged other insulin manufacturers to follow suit.
T1International, an organization that advocates for people with type 1 diabetes, also applauded Lilly’s efforts, but said even Lilly’s reduced list prices could still keep the products out of reach for some patients.
Medications including Lilly, Novo Nordisk A/S and Sanofi on
significantly increased prices for their insulin products in the 2010s.
Now the products cost hundreds of dollars per month. Humalog currently has a list price of $530 for a pack of five injection pens and $274 for a vial, though Lilly said most people with commercial insurance and Medicare don’t pay more than $95 a month.
The manufacturers have said that while list prices have risen, they have had to pay larger rebates to companies that manage drug benefits.
But because of the high prices, people without insurance or with high deductibles may struggle to afford the products, forcing them to ration usage.
To ease the burden, some U.S. states have introduced caps on insulin costs in recent years. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act required patients covered by the federal Medicare health insurance program to pay no more than $35 per month in copays or other out-of-pocket expenses for an insulin prescription.
In his State of the Union address in February, President Biden called for that $35 monthly limit to be expanded beyond Medicare to include every diabetic patient.
Mr Biden praised Lilly on Wednesday, after the company announced its moves. “It’s a big deal and it’s about time other manufacturers followed suit,” he said.
Sanofi has a savings program to help people reduce their cost of prescribing diabetes medications, a company spokesperson said. The program limits costs to $15 or less per month for most patients on commercial insurance. People without insurance can also get Sanofi insulin at a reduced price or for free, the spokesperson said.
Novo Nordisk sells a version of its insulin for $25 a vial through Walmart Inc.
stores, has other patient savings programs and provides one-time 30-day supplies to people at risk of rationing their insulin, a spokeswoman said. “Novo Nordisk will continue to listen and assess to help us understand emerging patient needs and focus on sustainable solutions in an evolving healthcare system,” the company said.
In addition to cutting list prices for its top-selling insulins, Lilly said it would introduce a new insulin on April 1 called Rezvoglar, which 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 off the list price for Lantus.
The company said it would make improvements to its program, introduced in 2020, to limit insulin out-of-pocket costs to $35 per month. Participating pharmacies will now automatically enter that limit when people with commercial insurance fill their prescriptions, instead of requiring people to show a Lilly savings card.
People without insurance can keep monthly costs for Lilly insulin products down to $35 by using a savings card that can be downloaded immediately online, the company said.
Mr. Ricks said Lilly has been planning these moves for some time, and that Lilly has factored the impact on insulin sales into its earlier 2023 sales and revenue forecast. The company, which also makes insulin-free diabetes medicines and cancer treatments, said: expects sales of up to $30.8 billion in 2023, about 8% higher than in 2022.
He said he expects Lilly’s insulin products to continue to have favorable coverage on pharmacy administrators’ and insurers’ preferred drug lists.
Write to Peter Loftus at Peter.Loftus@wsj.com
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