The move follows a $35 price cap set by Medicare that took effect in January, and may help lower insulin costs for many younger and uninsured people.
The drugmaker Eli Lilly is cutting the sticker price on some of its most commonly used types of insulin by 70 percent and capping out-of-pocket costs at $35 for many patients.
Effective immediately, Lilly will automatically cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 at many retail pharmacies for people with private health insurance, and allow anyone without health benefits to download a savings card that gives them the same $35 price cap, the company said in a March 1 statement.
The company also said that, starting in April, it will sell a biosimilar version of its slow-acting injectable Lantus insulin pens for $92 per five pack of KwikPens, a 78 percent discount.
In May, Lilly will reduce prices for its nonbranded mealtime insulin Humalog to $25 a vial. And by the end of the year, Lilly said it will reduce the price of its most commonly prescribed insulin, branded Humalog, by 70 percent.
“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes,” said David A. Ricks, Lilly’s chair and chief executive officer, in the statement. “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.”
Rising Insulin Prices Have Forced Some People to Make Tough Decisions
Average retail prices for insulin climbed 54 percent from 2014 to 2019, according to a report last year from GoodRx. And during the COVID-19 pandemic when millions of Americans struggled to afford necessities, insulin prices dropped only by about 5 percent, GoodRx reported.
Steep insulin prices have forced roughly one in six Americans to ration this medicine, skipping doses or delaying prescription refills, according to a study in the November 2022 Annals of Internal Medicine.
Congress passed legislation last year that took effect in January to cap insulin costs at $35 for people insured by Medicare, the U.S. government health program for individuals 65 and older. Congress considered instituting insulin price caps for younger people and those with private insurance, but the legislation ultimately didn’t pass.
“We applaud Eli Lilly for taking the important step to limit cost-sharing for its insulin, and we encourage other insulin manufacturers to do the same,” said Charles Henderson, the chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association, in a March 1 statement.
1 in 10 Americans Live With Diabetes
About 37 million people have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another one-third of Americans — or about 96 million people — have what’s known as prediabetes, when blood sugar is slightly elevated but not yet high enough for a full-blown diabetes diagnosis.
Diabetes was essentially a terminal condition before insulin was discovered a century ago. The scientists who discovered insulin won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1923, and soon afterward Eli Lilly ramped up manufacturing of this new treatment for diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
People with type 2 diabetes can’t make or use enough of the hormone insulin to convert the sugars in food into energy, allowing sugars to accumulate in the bloodstream instead. With type 1 diabetes, people make little or no insulin at all. Both types of diabetes can be treated with insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.