Insulin: Big drugmaker cuts US costs by 70 percent

Millions of people in the US use insulin every day


Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Company announced it will reduce the cost of its most commonly prescribed insulins by 70 percent starting in May. The reduction applies in the USA. The company will also immediately cap the cost people pay for insulin to $35 a month, increasing access to the drug and saving some people thousands of dollars each month.

More than 7 million people in the US use insulin – a life-saving drug for many diabetics. An estimated 1.3 million people in the US are rationing the drug because of the skyrocketing cost over the years. Manufacturers charge, on average, nearly $100 for a standard bottle of insulin in the US, compared to $12 in Canada or $7.52 in the UK. The price paid depends on a person’s health insurance – or lack thereof – with some paying almost nothing and others paying the full cost.

The proposed price reductions apply only to certain insulin products, mainly legacy products, including the drugmaker’s most commonly prescribed insulin medications. The cut — along with the $35 monthly price cap — will have the biggest impact on uninsured Americans, some of whom pay thousands of dollars a month for insulin.

“While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone, and that needs to change,” said David A. Ricks of Eli Lilly and Company in a press release. “We’re looking for changes to reevaluate older insulins, but we know that 7 out of 10 Americans don’t use Lilly insulin. We call on policymakers, employers and others to join us in making insulin more affordable,” he said.

Only two other drugmakers — Novo Nordisk and Sanofi — supply insulin in the US. “We applaud Eli Lilly for taking the important step of capping co-payments on its insulin, and we encourage other insulin manufacturers to do the same,” Charles Henderson of the American Diabetes Association said in a statement.

Eli Lilly’s announcement could pressure other drugmakers to follow suit, but it’s unlikely to impact drug prices more broadly, including newer insulin products, says Andrew Mulcahy of RAND Corporation, a US think tank.

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