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Drugmaker to Lower List Prices of Some Older Insulins

Eli Lilly says it will match the new Medicare $35 cap for people with private insurance

Eli Lilly, one of three U.S. companies that produce insulin, the drug that millions of Americans with diabetes rely on to stay alive, announced on March 1 that it will cut the list price of some of its older insulins later this year and mirror the new Medicare $35 monthly out-of-pocket cap for consumers with private health insurance.

The move comes two months after the monthly Medicare cap took effect as part of the prescription drug provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Under that provision, Medicare enrollees who either have a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan or who have a Medicare Advantage plan that covers medications will pay no more than $35 a month out of pocket for insulin covered by their plans.

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Lilly's announcement also comes on the heels of a call by President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address for insulin to be capped at $35 a month for everyone. On March 14, another insulin producer, Novo Nordisk, announced it would cut the prices of some of its insulin by 75 percent, starting in 2024. And on March 16, the third big insulin producer, Sanofi, announced that it will cut the price of its most popular insulin, Lantus, by 78 percent, also in 2024.

"There is definitely a sense that this is in response to the political pressure to lower prescription drug prices that has been building over the last several years," says Leigh Purvis, AARP senior director of health care costs and access. In its press release, Lilly officials say that 7 out of 10 Americans who use insulin don't use Lilly's products and they used their announcement to call for making insulin from all manufacturers more affordable across the board.

spinner image a vial of humalog sits on a table
AP Photo/Pablo Salinas

Here are the specific actions Eli Lilly will be taking:

  • Effective May 1, 2023, the list price of its generic insulin, Lispro, will be cut from $82 a vial to $25.
  • Effective in the fourth quarter of 2023, the list price of Humalog, the company's most prescribed insulin, and Humulin, another insulin product, will be cut by 70 percent. The price cuts will not include the new Tempo Pen version of Humalog, which is a prefilled insulin pen.
  • Effective immediately, Lilly will automatically cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month for people with commercial health insurance who use Lilly insulin and get the medicine at participating retail pharmacies.
  • Also effective immediately, people who do not have insurance can get an insulin program savings card and receive Lilly insulins for $35 a month.

Insulin prices historically high

"For people who are struggling to afford their insulin, this is good news,” AARP’s Purvis says, adding that the price cuts will be most meaningful for people who either are underinsured or uninsured.

But not everyone who takes insulin will benefit, Purvis explains. The insulins Lilly is targeting for price cuts "have been on the market for literally decades. To the extent that the market has moved to newer insulin, this may not be as beneficial as if they had also lowered the list prices for their newer insulins." There are more than 70 insulins on the market, and experts suggest that patients looking to save money on their insulin can check with their doctor to see if they can switch to one with a lower price.

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For years, AARP, other advocates and many lawmakers have highlighted the high price of insulin and pushed for ways to lower those prices, including a cap on what people with Medicare and other health insurance pay for this medication.

A 2022 report from KFF, formerly the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that at least one out of five people with private health insurance would benefit from a $35 monthly insulin cap.

Lilly's announcement, Purvis says, "really demonstrates the pricing power these companies have and choose not to use. There was nothing to stop them from doing this before."

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