As Congressional hearings have convened this year to examine the rapid rise in insulin prices, some firms in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries have announced new measures to offer some price relief for the high out-of-pocket costs of insulin.
Those who made the cost-cutting moves have touted them as a way to improve drug access for their customers. Some critics within the diabetes community, however, contend that the moves are staged to distract health regulators from the need to bring down the high list price of insulin.
Whatever the motivations are for these moves, they should have an immediate and material impact for some people with diabetes who need insulin and struggle to afford it.
Below is a summary of the recent announcements, in the order that they were announced:
Lilly releases a generic version of Humalog
Eli Lilly and Company announced in March that it was introducing a generic version of Humalog that is sold at roughly half the list price of its best-selling insulin brand. The lower-priced insulin formulation is identical to the brand-name drug. It will be available in vials and pens at a discounted list price rate of $137.35 a vial and $265.20 for a five-pack of KwikPens.
You can read more about Lilly’s announcement here.
Express Scripts, Cigna, and Insulin Makers Partner to Cap Out-of-Pocket Insulin Costs
Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), and Cigna, one of the country’s largest insurers, have partnered to cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for insulin to $25 a month for qualifying customers whose employers opt into the program.
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It’s estimated that the average customer could save $16 a month under the program. The difference in savings would be paid for by the major insulin makers – Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi.
The program would not be available to those on Medicare and some other federal healthcare programs.
You can read the announcement here.
Sanofi offers “Netflix-model” subscription
On the day that executives from insulin manufacturers testified before lawmakers with the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Sanofi announced a large-scale expansion of its Valyou Savings Program. Under the new terms of the program, qualifying customers will be able to receive up to 10 boxes of insulin pens and 10 vials of insulin for a flat subscription fee of $99 a month.
This so-called “Netflix model” subscription represents a more-than-tenfold increase of the Valyou Savings Program. Before the announcement, the program offered just one vial of insulin for $99 or one pack of pens for $149.
The program is not available to Medicaid and Medicare recipients, or recipients of similar federal or state programs.
You can read the announcement of the program here.
More to come?
These moves may offer motivation to others in the insulin industry to announce their own cost-saving moves. It remains to be seen, however, whether the moves ultimately will alleviate the regulatory pressure those who set the price of insulin are feeling from lawmakers.