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Eli Lilly to Cut Price of Insulin by 70%, Cap Insulin Costs at $35 a Month

Published: 3/1/23 7:43 am
By Susannah ChenNatalie Sainz

Lilly to Cut Insulin Prices by 70 PercentEli Lilly announced today that it will cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulins, including Humalog and Humulin, by 70%. The drug maker will also expand a program that caps out-of-pocket insulin costs for patients at $35 per month.

Eli Lilly announced today that it will cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulins by 70%. The drug maker will also expand a program that caps out-of-pocket insulin costs for patients at $35 per month.

On May 1, Lilly will reduce the list price of its non-branded insulin, Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL, to $25 a vial from $82 a vial, making it the lowest list-priced mealtime insulin available on the US market. The company also stated that in the fourth quarter of 2023, it will cut the list prices for its most commonly prescribed insulins, Humalog (insulin lispro injection) 100 units/mL, and Humulin® (insulin human) injection 100 units/mL, by 70%. Humalog currently has a list price of $530 for a five-pack of injection pens and $274 for a 100-unit vial, though Lilly said most people with commercial insurance and Medicare pay no more than $95 a month.

In the same announcement, Lilly announced it will be expanding its Insulin Value Program, which caps patient out-of-pocket costs at a maximum of $35 per month. The program will now also include people with commercial insurance who do not use one of the participating pharmacies. Effective immediately, Lilly will automatically cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 at participating retail pharmacies—about 85% of U.S. pharmacies—for people with commercial insurance using Lilly insulin. People without insurance or those who do not use a participating pharmacy can now download the Lilly Insulin Value Program savings card to receive Lilly insulins for a maximum of $35 a month. The company has now become the first of all insulin drug makers in the U.S. to lower the cost of insulin to $35 per month, a hope that many have pushed for.

According to a 2022 Kaiser Family Foundation study, more than one in four people with private insurance paid an average of greater than $35 per month, or $420 per year, on out-of-pocket insulin in 2018. The same study found that a cap on insulin could provide financial relief to at least one out of five insulin users with private health insurance.

"We think that this should be the new standard in America." —David Ricks, Chair and CEO, Eli Lilly

Lilly and other drug makers have faced increased pressure to curb the patient cost of diabetes treatment. The high cost of insulin, which can potentially be over $1,300 per month for those without insurance, has been shown to impact the health of people with diabetes. One in four people who rely on insulin have been forced to ration it because they could not afford the cost each month – an estimate based on a 2018 online survey of 631 people with type 1 diabetes. Rationing insulin can be extremely dangerous, causing higher blood glucose levels and increasing the risk of death due to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

To ease the burden, some U.S. states have passed insulin cost caps in recent years. Last year, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which capped the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for the 3.3 million people on Medicare who use insulin. The bill also reduced the cost of other diabetes drugs for those on Medicare. While the IRA initially included a provision that would have also limited out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $35 for those with private insurance, the provision was ultimately excluded from the final measure. In his State of the Union address last month, President Biden called for the $35 monthly cap to be expanded beyond Medicare to include every diabetes patient. The IRA, along with Lilly's newly broadened $35 insulin cap, brings this call to action closer to reality.

"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," said David Ricks, Lilly's Chair and CEO. "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."

On CNN This Morning, Ricks further explained the reasoning behind Lilly’s decision to cut prices at this time. "This is the culmination of about seven years of work we’ve been doing to reduce the price of our insulins, [including] launching a generic to our own bestselling brand. But with the change last year in the Medicare Part D benefit—the senior benefit—to $35, we think that this should be the new standard in America," Ricks explained in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon.

"While we could wait for Congress to act or the healthcare system in general to apply that standard, we’re just applying it ourselves. Lilly’s going to buy down all of our customers’ out-of-pocket costs to $35 at the pharmacy counter automatically."

diaTribe Learn reached out to press representatives at Sanofi and Novo Nordisk for comment. 

"Sanofi believes that no one should struggle to pay for their insulin, regardless of their insurance status or income level, which is why we have a suite of innovative and patient-centric savings programs to help people reduce their prescription medicine costs," Sanofi said in a statement. The company also referenced several programs it has implemented in the past year to lower out-of-pocket insulin costs and expand insulin access in underserved communities.

A representative from Novo Nordisk addressed the news by saying, "At Novo Nordisk we appreciate the importance of affordability and access for patients, and recognize that not all patient situations are the same. Importantly, 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."

"As part of our ongoing commitment to patient affordability and access over the past several years, we have launched a number of different affordability offerings in the U.S.," Novo Nordisk added in a statement to diaTribe Learn. "For more than 10 years, we have had an offering through Walmart which includes a human insulin program for about $25 per vial. In addition, through NovoCare, our My$99Insulin program provides eligible people living with diabetes a 30-day supply of a combination of our insulin products (up to three vials or two packs of pens) for $99, equating to $33/vial or $49.50/pack of pens. Our Immediate Supply program provides those who may be at risk of rationing their insulin a one-time free 30-day supply of our insulin."

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About the authors

Prior to joining The diaTribe Foundation as a managing editor, Susannah Chen was a freelance writer and editorial content strategist focused on food, drink, and travel. A health journey involving... Read the full bio »
Natalie Sainz joined the diaTribe Foundation in 2021 after graduating from Carleton College with a degree in Political Science and International Relations. As an undergrad, Natalie worked in Carleton’s Office... Read the full bio »