Eli Lilly and Company announced today that it will rapidly introduce a generic version of Humalog that will be roughly half the list price of its best-selling insulin brand.
The lower-priced insulin formulation, called Insulin Lispro, will include the same insulin molecule as Humalog — in fact, Lilly says it will be 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.
According to the announcement, Lilly has been steadily manufacturing vials and pens of Insulin Lispro and is now actively working to roll out the generic insulin through a subsidiary. This product will augment, rather than replace, the existing Humalog on the market in the United States.
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In the press release, Lilly CEO David A. Ricks suggested that the rollout of Insulin Lispro is a stopgap measure for the high price of insulin; he also criticized the drug rebate system that can affect the net price people pay for medicine in the United States.
“The significant rebates we pay on insulins do not directly benefit all patients. This needs to change,” Ricks said in a statement. “There are numerous ideas, including the rebate reform proposal from HHS. 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.”
This will mark the second lower-priced version of Humalog on the market. In 2017, Sanofi was given FDA approval for Admelog, a biologic version of Humalog.
Lilly’s release of Insulin Lispro represents the most concrete move toward more affordable drugs by insulin makers in the wake of increased regulatory scrutiny of high insulin prices. In recent months, Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi have faced a wave of protests, hearings, and even a lawsuit about the price of insulin.
These controversies have included:
-Hearings in both chambers of Congress. In a January hearing in the House of Representatives, lawmakers listened to patients and patient advocates discuss the sometimes lethal consequences of high drug prices. In a February hearing in the Senate, Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt and six other pharmaceutical executives were forced to defend his company’s pricing policies from pointed questions from lawmakers.
-Continuing pricing protests at the headquarters of Lilly and other companies.
-A federal class-action lawsuit against the three companies for alleged price-fixing. In February, a judge partially rejected an attempt by the the companies to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The fact that Lilly had been preparing vials and pens of its Insulin Lispro formulation suggests the company did not undertake the release of a generic version of Humalog solely because of events in the last couple of months. However, it will be interesting to see if the other two insulin makers will feel pressure to introduce new cost-cutting measures for insulin in reaction to Lilly’s move.