- Eli Lilly is cutting the price of its insulin products, announcing Wednesday a plan to reduce the cost of its branded drug Humalog and set a $25-per-vial cap on a non-branded Humalog alternative. The company is also launching a copycat version of Sanofi’s long-acting insulin Lantus at a 78% discount.
- Additionally, the drugmaker will set a $35 cap on out-of-pocket costs for insulins filled at participating pharmacies for people with commercial insurance. For those who don’t have commercial insurance, Lilly has a value card program that limits patients’ costs to $35 a month.
- Lilly’s announcement comes after the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act set a $35-a-month cost-sharing limit on insulin for seniors enrolled in privately run Medicare plans and several months ahead of the same limit being applied to everyone else in the federal program. Insulin makers have been under pressure to lower prices for years.
Lilly’s announcement appears to be a strategic retreat from a shrinking part of its diabetes business. Sales of Humalog, Humulin and its Lantus look-alike Basaglar fell by double-digit percentages from 2021 to 2022. Humalog and Humulin are short-acting insulins requiring multiple injections per day, while Sanofi’s Lantus and Lilly’s Basaglar can be dosed once daily.
By comparison, the other parts of Lilly’s diabetes business are growing by double digits. Jardiance, a pill that helps patients excrete excess blood sugar, and Trulicity, an injection that stimulates insulin secretion, are both among Lilly’s top-selling medicines. In addition to reducing blood sugar levels, the drugs can reduce the risk of heart complications and death in people with diabetes, a benefit that has helped spur broader use.
In addition, Lilly last year launched Mounjaro, a dual-acting insulin-stimulating drug that analysts expect could earn many billions of dollars annually if it wins approval as expected for use treating obesity. Earlier in the company’s pipeline are nine other diabetes treatments, including a once-weekly insulin in Phase 3 testing that could compete with a similar product developed by diabetes rival Novo Nordisk.
With the rest of its insulin business, however, Lilly faces diminishing sales and growing public and political scrutiny. While the Inflation Reduction Act’s controls on out-of-pocket costs were limited to Medicare, legislators had pushed for the caps to be applied to all patients, including those on commercial insurance. President Joe Biden reiterated that goal in his recent State of the Union address, calling for a broad $35 limit on insulin.
In a tweet Wednesday, Biden credited Lilly for following through, adding that “others should follow.” Novo is Lilly’s chief competitor, selling human insulins as well as three drugs that consist of long-acting insulin analogs. Sanofi also markets insulin products.