Insulin is not affordable in current health care system, ‘and that needs to change,’ CEO says.
Pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co. will cut insulin prices by 70% and expand its Insulin Value Program that caps patient out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month.
The drug maker announced the move March 1 “to make it easier to access Lilly insulin and help Americans who may have difficulty navigating a complex healthcare system that make keep them from getting affordable insulin.”
Some changes will be effective immediately, while others will roll out at the start of April or May. Lilly Chair and CEO David A. Ricks called on the industry and lawmakers to join the effort.
"While the current health care system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change," Ricks said in a news release. “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," Ricks said.
Amercian Diabetes Association (ADA) CEO Charles “Chuck” Henderson said the organization will continue its mission to ensure people with diabetes have access to care they need.
“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,” Henderson said in a news release.
“While we have been able to help achieve significant progress on the issue of insulin affordability, including Medicare’s new out-of-pocket cost cap on insulin, state copay caps, and patient assistance developments from insulin manufacturers, we know that our work is not done,” Henderson said. “We will work to ensure that Eli Lilly’s patient assistance program is benefiting patients as intended and continue the fight so that everyone who needs insulin has access.”
The move follows congressional and presidential action last year to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) economic bill that included a $35 per month cap on out-of-pocket costs for insulin in Medicare Part D. That limit started Jan. 1, and a similar cap will take effect July 1 for Medicare Part B.
The administration of President Joe Biden has touted the health benefits and financial savings for patients. In the news release, Ricks agreed, but noted not all patients with diabetes use the company’s drugs.
"We are driving for change in repricing older insulins, but we know that seven out of 10 Americans don't use Lilly insulin. We are calling on policymakers, employers, and others to join us in making insulin more affordable," Ricks said.
"For the past century, Lilly has focused on inventing new and improved insulins and other medicines that address the impact of diabetes and improve patient outcomes,” Ricks said in the news release. Our work to discover new and better treatments is far from over. We won't stop until all people with diabetes are in control of their disease and can get the insulin they need."
On Feb. 28, the day before the Lilly announcement, the president mentioned the IRA insulin price changes in his remarks to a crowd in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Insulin has been around for 100 years and costs about $10 to make and $13 to package, but sells for hundreds.
“Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every single American who needs it,” Biden said. “We’re the only country who doesn’t do that.”
Lilly published this list of insulins and prices:
Additional details about the purpose and safety of the drugs are available online.
ADA also has the website insulinhelp.org with toll free telephone numbers for insulin help centers available from Lilly, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and MannKind. That website noted donated Lilly insulins are stocked at almost 350 free clinics nationwide.
The March 1 announcement appeared as an official news release on lilly.com.
Last year, Lilly and insulin prices made headlines around the Internet and the nation when a parody account on social media website Twitter announced, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”
The bogus proclamation looked real, and it touched off debates about insulin and prescription drug prices, and about the verification process used to vet users on Twitter, which was freshly under the leadership of billionaire Elon Musk. Lilly’s real official Twitter account issued on online correction and apology, while other users pilloried the company for its pricing practices and Twitter for selling “verified” status to unconfirmed users. In real life, Lilly’s stock price dropped 4.37% due to the situation, according to a news report in Forbes.