Insulin Companies Start Dropping Prices by 70% or More. Why, though?

Novo Nordisk, a leading healthcare company, has joined competitor Eli Lilly in chopping the price of insulin for medicare patients by 75%, with Lilly starting at a 70% reduction and a monthly out-of-pocket cap for insulin. This is a startling, but welcome change. What brought it about, though, and should we be wary of the intentions?


The Basics

Eli Lilly was the first company to drop their prices, so we’ll focus on them. Here are the changes, as put on their website:

  • One: Cutting the list price of its non-branded insulin, Insulin Lispro Injection, to $25 a vial.
  • Two: Cutting the list price of Humalog (Lilly’s most commonly prescribed insulin) and Humulin by 70%.
  • Three: Launching Rezvoglar injection, a basal insulin that is biosimilar to, and interchangeable with, Lantus for $92 per five pack of KwikPens, a 78% discount to Lantus.

Along with dropping the prices of insulin by 70%, they also lowered the monthly out-of-pocket cap to $35. Great news, right? Well this latter change only applies to those of the older generation with Medicare. It’s still good, of course. The fact that they are looking at repricing their old insulin is huge to those that depend on insulin to live. However, for the $35 cap, it does not cover those who are covered by private insurance or are simply not insured at all. Most will have to pay out-of-pocket for their insurance, or will have to pay the full price, which is still subject to fluctuation.

With Eli Lilly’s bold move, people looked to other pharma companies to see if they would follow suit. Novo Nordisk did so, cutting their prices to match Lilly’s. No word from Sanofi, yet, but the fact that Lilly and Novo slashed their prices in the first place is pretty astonishing. Though, is it really? Perhaps they saw where things were headed in congress and decided to leap into it rather than wait for the inevitable.


Should We Trust This?

One might call my attitude as me looking a gift horse in the mouth. It’s my belief that we should still inspect this horse, because if it’s diseased, then we’ll have invested tons of time in something that would die anyway. So that brings up one question: is this genuine? How do we know they won’t jack up prices in a few years down the line? The answers: it is not, and we don’t know.

“Lilly is taking these actions to make it easier to access Lilly insulin and help Americans who may have difficulty navigating a complex healthcare system that may keep them from getting affordable insulin”

Says the latest article from Eli Lilly.

Is that really the reason, though? Or could this be a product of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that President Biden passed that pumped $500 billion into things like boosting clean energy and reducing healthcare costs. Through the act, the administration was able to negotiate and put a bit of pressure on pharmaceutical companies to slash costs for those under Medicare. Those without insurance or with other healthcare companies will not be affected by this bill, as Medicare is socialized healthcare and thus is the extent of congress’ reach at this point in time. Private pharmaceutical companies aren’t the type to drastically lower prices on a whim if it didn’t help themselves in some way.

This is not out of the kindness of their hearts. Eli Lilly is worth over $300 billion, and this might be because of how often they raise the prices of insulin, with the most egregious example being the increase the annual insulin costs from $2900 to $5700 in four years (2016-2020). Who’s to say that they won’t do it again with the older, repriced insulin? They’ve had a whole slew of lawsuits thrown against them, too, with their biggest fine being $1.4 billion because they falsely advertised a bipolar/schizophrenia medication as being able to treat dementia. Drug manufacturing companies are not your friend, and this sudden price change should not let them off the hook.

The first chance they’ll get, they will increase prices of privately-insured/uninsured drugs. While this is a great first step, we need to continue to apply pressure until these price slashes are extended to more people. Even that looks to be far in the future, so grab a drink, get comfortable, and remember to check your blood sugar.






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