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.
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.
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.