- Eli Lilly has announced that it will cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 a month.
- Its price of non-branded insulin will be reduced to $25 a vial.
- The cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years as pharmaceutical companies have raised prices, with many people paying over $1,000 a month for insulin products.
Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 a month.
It’ll also reduce the price of its non-branded insulin to $25 a vial.
The actions would reduce costs for insulin by up to 70%.
The cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years as pharmaceutical companies have raised prices, with many people paying over $1,000 a month for insulin products.
The rise of insulin insecurity
The high costs for insulin — in the form of prescription co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles — have caused millions of people with diabetes to experience “insulin insecurity,” rendering them unable to control their blood glucose levels.
“So many people have difficulty accessing their medications, including insulin, due to high cost that it’s great to see one of the major insulin manufacturers implement a cost-conscious measure,” Sarah McBane, PharmD, a health sciences clinical professor and the founding associate dean for pharmacy education at University of California, Irvine, told Healthline.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act, people on Medicare will not have to pay more than $35 for insulin. In President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, he called for pharmaceutical companies to lower their prices on the life-saving drug.
“For far too long, American families have been crushed by drug costs many times higher than what people in other countries are charged for the same prescriptions,” Biden said in a statement on March 1. “Insulin costs less than $10 to make, but Americans are sometimes forced to pay over $300 for it. It’s flat wrong.”
Here are the price changes and when they’ll take effect
Lilly outlined four cost-cutting initiatives that will take effect in 2023.
“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes. Because these price cuts will take time for the insurance and pharmacy system to implement, we are taking the additional step to immediately cap out-of-pocket costs for patients who use Lilly insulin and are not covered by the recent Medicare Part D cap,” David A. Ricks, Eli Lilly’s Chair and CEO, stated in a press release.
Effective May 1, 2023, the cost of its non-branded insulin — Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL — will drop to $25 a vial, making it the cheapest mealtime insulin available.
The previous price for the Lispro injection was $82.41.
Effective Q4 2023, the prices of Humalog (insulin lispro injection) and Humulin (insulin human) will be reduced by 70%.
The previous price for Humalog was $274.70, and after the price cuts, it will cost $66.40, an Eli Lilly spokesperson told Healthline.
Humulin previously cost $148.70 and will drop to $44.61.
Effective April 1, 2023, Rezvoglar (insulin glargine-aglr) injection will launch at $92 for a five-pack of KwikPens — 78% cheaper than the comparable Lantus injection.
Effective immediately, Lilly is capping out-of-pocket costs for Lilly insulin sold at participating retail pharmacies at $35.
People without insurance can go to InsulinAffordability.com to download a savings card to purchase Lilly insulin for $35 a month.
“Because price adjustments take time to implement, we are taking the additional step to immediately cap patient insulin out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for patients who use Lilly insulin,” Eli Lilly spokesperson’s said.
“Currently, anyone is eligible to purchase their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35 or less, regardless of the number of pens or vials, whether they are uninsured or use commercial insurance, Medicaid, or a participating Medicare Part D plan,” the spokesperson added.
Lower costs will increase access to life-saving care
Insulin has become unaffordable for many Americans with diabetes.
The high costs have caused people to ration how much insulin they use or travel out of the country — to Canada or Mexico — to buy insulin.
Insulin rationing increases the risk of blindness, amputations, hospital stays, and preventable deaths.
“This increases both morbidity — or symptoms of the condition — as well as mortality, or death, associated with the medical condition,” says McBane.
In August 2022, the U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which gave Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
One of the results was capping insulin costs to $35 per month in 2023.
“Bringing the cost of the medication to a more accessible amount will mean that fewer people have to choose between their medications and feeding their families or paying utility bills,” McBane said.
Eli Lilly’s price cuts mirror Medicare’s $35 monthly cap on insulin costs under the Inflation Reduction Act, says Brandy Lipton, PhD, a visiting associate professor of health, society, and behavior in the department of public health at the University of California Irvine.
“Prior to Medicare’s cap, Medicare enrollees paid closer to $48 per month out-of-pocket on average, though costs were much higher for some,” Lipton said.
The price caps won’t have a significant effect on people with Medicare, however, those who have private insurance or are unsecured will see significant savings.
“Cost is a major barrier that may lead to insulin rationing, and Eli Lilly’s new cap will help to reduce costs among people who were not included in the Inflation Reduction Act legislation,” Lipton said.
Biden said that other drug companies will likely slash their insulin costs, too.
Once one major pharmaceutical company lowers their costs, “it changes everything,” he said.
“Other drug companies may follow suit as insurers will prefer to purchase insulin from companies with lower prices,” Lipton said.
The bottom line:
Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced this week that it’s implementing multiple price-lowering changes that will reduce out-of-pocket costs for insulin products by up to 70%. Insulin has become unaffordable for millions of Americans, causing many to ration insulin, which increases their risk of amputation, hospitalization, and death. The price caps will help many people who are uninsured or on private insurance afford the treatment while driving other drug manufacturers to drop their costs, too.
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