Lilly offering half-price version of top-selling insulin


U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today released the following statement after Eli Lilly announced it would be selling a less expensive, generic version of its rapid-acting insulin, Humalog.

The cost of insulin for treating type 1 diabetes in the United States has almost doubled over a five-year period, leading some patients to put their own health at risk by rationing the medication.

The new product will be called Insulin Lispro and will become available as soon as possible, according to the company. The company says Humalog will remain available for users who want to continue buying it through their current insurance plans.

Two U.S. senators last month launched an investigation into rising insulin prices, writing to Lilly and two other leading manufacturers, asking them why the cost of the almost 100-year-old medication had rapidly risen. Its insulin has a list price of $137.70.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the committee, was more blunt, tweeting "there will be a lot of PR acrobatics about generic insulin" and that he will not stop investigating why companies keep raising the price of "a decades-old drug". The move comes as federal lawmakers have renewed focus on the rising costs of life-saving medications for Americans. Introducing an alternative insulin option allows Lilly to provide a lower-priced insulin more quickly while providing payers time to renegotiate downstream contracts and adjust to new system economics.

List prices are initial figures drugmakers attach to a product and are typically knocked down by rebates negotiated with pharmacy benefit managers.

The drugmakers have said that developing their products is a risky and costly process, and their prices reflect that. But those initial prices can still hurt patients without coverage or those who must first pay high deductibles before their coverage starts. A company spokeswoman said the average person uses about two vials a month, and the pack of pens can last a month or more.

Mike Mason, Lilly's senior vice president of connected care and insulins, told Business Insider that what he's seen is that about 95% of patients pay less than $100 a month for insulin at the pharmacy counter, while about 5% are on the hook for more.

"Clearly, the insulin cartel is feeling pressure after years of price gouging a lifesaving drug", he wrote.

"The substantial increase in the price of insulin has caused significant concern among patients and Congress", the senators said.