Lilly to Introduce Lower-Priced Generic Insulin

In an atmosphere of growing Congressional scrutiny in the United States of the prices of prescription drugs in general, and insulin in particular, drugmaker Eli Lilly has announced that it will introduce a lower-priced generic version of its popular insulin Humalog.

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Announced yesterday, the move will allow Lilly to continue to offer Humalog at current prices negotiated with pharmacy benefit managers on behalf of insurance companies and employers, while offering a lower price to patients who pay for insulin out of pocket or are charged a copayment based on the list price of the drug.

The new “authorized generic” version of Humalog, which will be identical in all aspects except the label, will be sold as Insulin Lispro at half the current price of Humalog. This comes to $137.35 for a single vial and $265.20 for a five-pack of KwikPens, according to a Lilly press release.

“Solutions that lower the cost of insulin at the pharmacy have been introduced in recent months, but more people need help,” Lilly chairman and CEO David A. Ricks explains in the company’s statement. “We’re eager to bring forward a low-priced rapid-acting insulin.”

Ricks notes that while the company offers significant rebates on insulin through its negotiated prices with pharmacy benefit managers, patients don’t always experience these savings equally due to differences in how their insurance plans are structured.

Since pharmacy benefit managers tend to keep a portion of the rebates they negotiate with drugmakers on behalf of insurers and employers, they can exert pressure on the drugmakers to raise the list prices of drugs so that the negotiated discount is bigger — even if the actual price they pay for a drug is the same or even less than it was before.

Noting that Congress is considering various reforms to regulate how rebates to pharmacy benefit managers work, Ricks adds that “for people with diabetes, a lower-priced insulin can serve as a bridge that addresses gaps in the system until a more sustainable model is achieved.”

Lilly says that its generic Insulin Lispro is already manufactured and will be made available to pharmacies as quickly as possible.

Want to learn more about generic insulin? Read “When Will There Be Generic Insulin?”

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