Novo Nordisk announced two new parts to its insulin affordability programs that are aimed at helping those who lack insurance or those with insurance who pay high out-of-pocket costs. The insulin manufacturer joins the other two major insulin makers, Eli Lilly and Sanofi, in offering new programs to cap out-of-pocket costs in 2019.
The two new programs offered by Novo Nordisk’s are:
- A cash card program to allow customers to purchase up to three vials or two packs of FlexPen or FlexTouch pens of any combination of Novo Nordisk’s analog insulins for $99 each month.
- The release of lower-priced generic versions of its NovoLog and NovoLog Mix insulins, priced at half the current list price of the branded insulins.
The press release for the announcement offered this price chart for the soon-to-be released generic insulin:
The new affordable offerings will be available for customers in the United States, beginning on January 2nd, 2020.
Both Lilly and Sanofi unveiled similar programs earlier this year. In March 2019, Lilly moved to release Insulin Lispro, a generic version of its Humalog, for half the list price of the branded insulin. Just over a month later, Sanofi announced it would expand its existing subscription model for insulin, allowing customers to buy up to 10 vials and 10 boxes of insulin pens for a monthly fee of $99.
Sanofi and the other manufacturers made these moves against the backdrop of growing demands from health care advocates and lawmakers for the U.S. health care industry to find ways to lower prescription drug prices. Cost containment efforts by the insulin makers have been met with praise from some advocates, who reason that any reduction in out-of-pocket costs is a benefit for patients. However, others have argued the moves don’t do enough to align U.S. drug prices with drug prices in other industrialized nations.
These strategies by manufacturers to lower the list price of insulin only directly impact one part of the complex drug pricing system in the United States, and their impact may be muted by countermoves made by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and insurers. In May 2019, for example, it was revealed that Express Scripts, the largest U.S. pharmacy benefit manager, had excluded Lilly’s Insulin Lispro from its drug formulary.
In its press release, Novo Nordisk called out the complexity of the U.S. healthcare system.
“While we will continue to do what we can to help address affordability challenges in the short-term, changes within the system are required to make sustainable and meaningful affordability a reality. What a patient pays for medicine is influenced by insurance benefit design and pricing,” the announcement stated. “While Novo Nordisk has acknowledged the role of list price, more needs to be done to improve how insurance benefits cover vital medicines, especially through high deductible health plans.”