Approximately 1.6 million Americans who suffer from Type 1 diabetes rely on daily insulin injections to control their blood sugar levels. And now, a top pharmaceutical company has decided to make it much easier for these people to get the medication they need at an affordable price. Eli Lilly announced that they will be lowering the price of the most commonly used form of insulin by 70%. In addition, they will be capping the out-of-pocket cost at $35.
The announcement builds on the Lilly Insulin Value Program, which was launched in 2020. Members of that program were already eligible to receive their insulin at $35 a month or less. But the new guidelines will bring these savings to even more people. Now, anyone with commercial insurance will receive their prescription at $35 or less through most retail pharmacies. Anyone who is uninsured or uses a non-participating pharmacy can still benefit from the deal by downloading a savings card.
“While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change,” said David A. Ricks, Lilly's Chair and CEO. “The aggressive price cuts we're announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes”
Last year, we capped insulin prices for seniors on Medicare, but there was more work to do.
I called on Congress – and manufacturers – to lower insulin prices for everyone else.
Today, Eli Lilly is heeding my call. Others should follow. https://t.co/Kv57KFATe9
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 1, 2023
The price change for Humalog, Lilly's most commonly prescribed insulin, will go into effect in the fourth quarter of 2023. But there are other discounts coming even sooner. On April 1, the company is launching basal insulin that is interchangeable with Lantus (insulin glargine) injection. The cost will be $92 for a five-pack of Kwik Pens, which is a 78% discount compared to Lantus. Lilly's non-branded insulin, Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL, will also see its price reduced from $84.21 to $25 a vial as of May 1. According to Eli Lilly, this will make it the lowest list-priced mealtime insulin available.
While Ricks acknowledges that many Americans don't use Lilly insulin, he's hoping that the company's stance will encourage policymakers and employers to help make the drug more affordable. President Joe Biden seems encouraged by the change, calling it “a big deal,” in a statement.
President Biden signed off on the Medicare Part D Senior Savings Model last year, which caps insulin at $35 for a month's supply. At the same time, he encouraged pharmaceutical companies to bring down the retail cost of the drug. Though relatively cheap to make, the average retail cost in the United States rose 54% between 2014 and 2019.
These changes couldn't come at a better time. Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic illnesses in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37 million adults have diabetes, many of whom are undiagnosed. Five to 10% of those people have Type 1 diabetes, and the disease has become the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Additionally, 96 million adults have pre-diabetes, and 80% of those adults don't even realize they have it. Prediabetes raises the risk for Type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke. In these cases, a lifestyle change can stave off diabetes and prevent the need for medication.
I did a… certain tweet two weeks ago. Something about insulin. You probably saw it.
Anyway, here’s why I did it: pic.twitter.com/fuPQW7KtMC
— Sean Morrow (@snmrrw) November 22, 2022
This change in price for Eli Lilly's medicinal offerings for diabetics is very much welcome, though it does come with some criticism. Many people online have pointed out that this change of heart could be the result of a PR nightmare for the company. Back in November 2022, a man named Sean Morrow took advantage of Twitter's recent rule changes for receiving a verified blue check mark—Twitter Blue allowed any user who paid its $8 per month subscription fee to receive a blue check mark. So, Morrow did just that with an old account he renamed @EliLillyandCo. With this new name, he went ahead and sent out a satirical tweet: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”
The fake insulin tweet brought more public attention to Eli Lilly than anything in the past 10 years at least. Not at all speculative, imo, to say it was a factor in their decision to slash insulin prices pic.twitter.com/qtVfOGlzlF
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) March 2, 2023
The tweet went viral and many viewers believed the company was now offering insulin for free. Eli Lilly had to send out a public statement denying this change and admitting to their high insulin prices. After this admission, stock prices dropped 4.37% for the pharmaceutical company. Though they've made some positive changes in the end, many people question their motives.
It's worth noting that Eli Lilly announced this move on their investor relations page and highlighted the potential growth in customer base.
— Sean Morrow (@snmrrw) March 1, 2023
Whether Eli Lilly's true intention is to actually make medicine affordable for diabetics, regain some good PR amongst netizens, or raise the value of their stock, one thing is clear: this drop in price is good news for people who need this life-saving medicine.