In the last year or so, the high cost of insulin in the United States has received a fair amount of media coverage. But the insulin cost crisis has been building for years, and it has many different structural causes.
In recent months, the major insulin manufacturers have responded to this new level of public scrutiny by offering new patient assistance programs and reduced-cost versions of some of their products. These reduced-cost versions of insulin are often referred to as “authorized generic” versions, since they’re sold under their generic drug name but are made by the original manufacturer and are completely identical to the original brand-name product.
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In May 2019, insulin maker Eli Lilly introduced a generic version of Humalog (insulin lispro injection 100 units/ml) at a 50% lower price than the branded version. Now, the drugmaker is rolling out two other reduced-cost products: generic versions of its Humalog Mix 75/25 KwikPen (insulin lispro protamine and insulin lispro injectable suspension 100 units/ml) and its Humalog Junior KwikPen (insulin lispro injection 100 units/ml), as announced in a press release from the company.
Both products will cost 50% less than their original versions and will be available by mid-April 2020, according to Eli Lilly. Since they’re identical to their brand-name equivalents, they can be substituted by pharmacists without authorization from a doctor under current federal regulations.
In its press release, the company notes that as of November 2019, about 10% of its Humalog users had transitioned to using the generic version of the product. While this represents potential savings for over 67,000 people, it’s still notable that about 90% of users haven’t switched to an identical, lower-cost product. Part of the reason for this may be that many people still aren’t aware of the lower-cost product, or that their insurance coverage offers no benefit from switching.
Eli Lilly notes that with the release of its two new lower-cost insulins, over 90% of people who use a mealtime insulin from the company will have a generic option available. But already, the company says, over 95% of people who use a Humalog product pay less than $100 out of pocket each month because of their insurance coverage or a patient assistance program.
“The cost of insulin at the pharmacy varies dramatically depending on a person’s insurance coverage,” says Mike Mason, president of Lilly Diabetes, in the press release. “These lower-priced insulins may reduce out-of-pocket costs, especially for people in the coverage gap of Medicare Part D, the uninsured or those with high-deductible insurance plans.”
Want to learn more about saving money on insulin? Read “Sanofi Offering Insulin at $99 Per Month,” “Half-Price Humalog Insulin Now Available,” “Insulin Prices: Four Ways to Pay Less” and “Cheaper Insulin: Older Insulins May Be Answer to High Prices.”