Eli Lilly plans to cut prices on its most commonly prescribed insulin products by 70% and will also cap customers’ out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month for those with commercial insurance who use its insulin.
The change comes as Eli Lilly and other insulin manufacturers face ongoing criticism for their prices, which have pushed more people with diabetes to ration insulin or reduce their use of the medication. Insulin rationing can lead to illness and death, while some groups contend that unaffordable insulin may constitute a human rights abuse.
About 3 in 10 diabetics in the U.S. rely on insulin from Eli Lilly, one of three drug companies, along with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, that control the market for the drug. Since introducing their analog insulin products more than two decades ago, the three drugmakers have sharply raised prices for the medications, which control blood sugar more effectively than so-called human insulin.
“Today is really about lowering the cost of older insulins, that’s what people expect from our industry,” Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks said on a conference call to discuss the company’s new pricing scheme. He added, “We are doing this completely voluntarily because it’s time and it’s the right thing to do.”
The company’s price reductions come after lawmakers last year considered a bill to cap insulin prices at $35 a month, a push that was adopted by Medicare in 2023, although it doesn’t apply to private insurance, Medicaid and other plans. It also follows moves by other insulin makers to cut insulin prices, with Sanofi last year slashing costs for uninsured patients to $35 a month and Novo Nordisk also lowering prices.
Ricks said Eli Lilly backs legislation that would impose a $35 per month price cap for insulin covered under private health insurance plans.
“We are left in 2023 with a split situation,” he said. Seniors “enjoy that $35 cap, but in that commercial market it’s quite a mixed picture.”
Room for additional cuts?
The announcement was applauded by President Joe Biden, lawmakers and health organizations including the American Diabetes Association, with Biden proclaiming on Twitter, “Huge news.”
But some diabetics and advocates for lower insulin prices questioned why Eli Lilly hadn’t lowered insulin prices years earlier — and said the prices still have room for additional cuts.
“The past decade we have been fighting and people have been dying because they couldn’t afford insulin,” said Laura Marston, a diabetic and the co-founder of the Insulin Initiative, an advocacy group for lower insulin prices.
Referring to Humalog, the insulin that she herself uses, Marston noted, “Even at that [lower] price point, we are still talking three times more than the price they released it for. That is over three times more than they charge in every other country.”
Marston added that she and other advocates are working on insulin-pricing legislation, which she said has gained sponsors in Congress, although she couldn’t disclose additional details. But the legislation would require insulin manufacturers to charge no more than they do in other nations, she added.
“We, as patients, have to keep shaming these companies into acting right — the government needs to ensure that they do,” Marston noted.
Eli Lilly on Wednesday said it will cut the list price of its Humalog 100 units/mL1, its most commonly prescribed insulin, by 70%. The price cut will take effect during the fourth quarter of 2023, the company said in a statement.
The company said that the list price of Humalog U-100 10 mL vials will drop from $274.70 to $66.40.
The list price of Humulin U-100 10 mL vials will drop from $148.70 to $44.61, it added.
The drugmaker said it will also cut the list price of its non-branded insulin, called Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL, to $25 a vial, which will go into effect on May 1. That amounts to a lower price than a vial of Humalog in 1999, the company noted.
Eli Lilly also said it will cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 at participating retail pharmacies for people with insurance who are prescribed the company’s insulin. People without insurance can download an Insulin Value Program savings card to buy Lilly insulin products for $35 a month, it added.
The price cuts come after the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act capped the price of insulin at $35 a month for enrollees in Medicare, the health insurance plan for people who are 65 or older.