March 1, 2023

Eli Lilly announces new insulin price caps, advocates hope other manufacturers follow suit

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The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company, announced Wednesday it will lower the prices of its branded insulin by 70 percent and will introduce more price caps for its non-branded insulin. - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company, announced Wednesday it will lower the prices of its branded insulin by 70 percent and will introduce more price caps for its non-branded insulin.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Company, announced Wednesday it will lower the prices of its branded insulin by 70 percent and will introduce more price caps for its non-branded insulin.

The company’s Humalog and Humalin insulins will have a 70 percent price cut later this year. Its non-branded insulin will also receive a price cut – to $25 a vial in May and an out-of-pocket cap of $35 a month. This will apply at participating retail pharmacies and for people with commercial insurance.

Elizabeth Pfiester is the president of T1International, an advocacy group for those with Type 1 diabetes.

She said this news is hopeful, but it does not solve all of the issues that surround high insulin costs.

“We want to see all three insulin manufacturers lower the price, the list price, of all of their products, and we need those products to be available in pharmacies,” Pfiester said.

Pfeister said, historically, the non-branded vials of Lilly insulin have not been widely available in many pharmacies, sometimes making these price cuts insignificant.

“You can't take advantage of a lower price if you can't actually get the insulin,” she said.

Pfiester said her organization is also pushing for federal regulation and caps on insulin, to ensure major insulin companies cannot go back and raise prices again.

Two other major companies, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, produce and distribute Insulin. Novo Nordisk is headquartered in Denmark, while Sanofi is located in France.

Pfiester said T1International is global, so members of the France chapter have led demonstrations for lower drug prices outside of Sanofi. However, she said the majority of the organization’s United States protests have been at Eli Lilly, since it is more central to T1Interational’s headquarters and capability.

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Pfiester said she hopes other insulin companies will follow Lilly’s example.

“We really need these changes to have a ripple effect and to be made on a global level,” she said.

Josh Perry is a professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and focuses his research on legal, ethical and policy issues in health care. He said it is likely Lilly’s move will influence other insulin companies to make changes.

“I can't imagine that the other two major players, the two European companies wouldn't feel similar pressure to follow Lilly's example,” Perry said.

Perry said mounting political and public pressure likely contributed to Lilly’s move.

President Joe Biden’s administration recently issued a $35 per month cap on insulin in Medicare as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. In his State of the Union speech, Biden also called for this cap to be applied to all diabetes patients.

“The timing of those actions, I think, have to be viewed as a catalyst for this type of move,” Perry said.

He added that pushes from advocacy groups, like T1International, and other public sentiments likely pushed Lilly to make this move.

Eli Lilly’s $25 price cap on non-branded insulin takes effect May 1. The $35 cap for out-of-pocket costs is effective immediately.

Prices for its branded insulin vials will be lowered by 70 percent later this year.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.

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