Relief For Millions: Eli Lilly Caps Insulin Costs at $35 a Month

Eli Lil­ly announced Wednes­day that it will price its insulin at $35 a month. Experts say the move could encour­age oth­er US insulin mak­ers to fol­low suit.

Accord­ing to Lil­ly, the change will go into effect imme­di­ate­ly and will align with pro­vi­sions of the Con­trolled Infla­tion Act that capped insulin copay­ments for seniors with Medicare last month at $35 a month. 

Insulin man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tin­ue to come under pres­sure from law­mak­ers and advo­ca­cy groups to reduce the cost of life-sav­ing drugs.

The cost of insulin in the Unit­ed States is noto­ri­ous­ly high com­pared to costs in oth­er coun­tries, with pub­lic pol­i­cy think tank Rand Cor­po­ra­tion esti­mat­ing that the aver­age list price for a bot­tle of insulin in the Unit­ed States was $98.70 in 2018. ing.

Peo­ple with pri­vate insur­ance are auto­mat­i­cal­ly capped. Those with­out insur­ance are eli­gi­ble if they enroll in Lil­ly’s copay assis­tance program.

That pro­gram began offer­ing insulin for under $35 a month to patients with or with­out insur­ance in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.

The cap applies to all Lil­ly insulin prod­ucts, said com­pa­ny spokes­woman Kel­ly Smith. In addi­tion to the cost cap, the com­pa­ny plans to cut list prices on sev­er­al prod­ucts this year, includ­ing Humalog.

About 8.4 mil­lion peo­ple with dia­betes are depen­dent on insulin, accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Asso­ci­a­tion. Eli Lil­ly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi dom­i­nate the insulin market.

Accord­ing to Smith, three out of 10 insulin-depen­dent dia­bet­ics use Eli Lil­ly products.

In Novem­ber, Lil­ly’s stock price plum­met­ed after a fake account tweet­ed, “Make insulin for free,” bring­ing renewed atten­tion to the cost.

In addi­tion to polit­i­cal pres­sure, Lil­ly also faces the threat of com­pe­ti­tion from out­side the indus­try, said Lar­ry Levitt, senior vice pres­i­dent of health pol­i­cy at KFF, for­mer­ly the Kaiser Fam­i­ly Foundation.

Lehi, Utah-based non­prof­it Civi­caRx announced last year that it plans to man­u­fac­ture and sell gener­ic insulin to con­sumers for under $30 a bot­tle and under $55 for a box of five pen car­tridges. . Cal­i­for­nia also plans to make low-cost insulin, as does Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs, which sells low-cost drugs over the Internet.

“Eli Lil­ly must have real­ized this,” says Levitt.

Stacey Ducet­z­i­na, a pro­fes­sor of health pol­i­cy at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter in Nashville, Ten­nessee, agrees that the move is like­ly due to increased competition.

“The com­pa­ny is react­ing to the enor­mous exist­ing and future com­pe­ti­tion for these drugs,” she said.

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