Insulin producer Eli Lilly announced March 1 they will cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month and reduce prices of commonly prescribed insulins by 70%.
By developing its Lilly Insulin Value Program, the company will cut prices of common insulins like Humalog and Humulin starting in October. The $35 cap is effective immediately at participating retail pharmacies for people with commercial insurance.
The company is cutting prices for multiple insulin products. Lantus will be discounted by 78% effective April 1, and non-branded insulin will be set at $25 per vial.
Lilly is also launching Rezvoglar, a basal injection interchangeable with Lantus, and selling at $92 per pack of five KwikPens.
“The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes,” Eli Lilly Chair and CEO David A. Ricks said in a March 1 news release.
While Lilly’s price cuts bring hope that other providers will follow, diabetes patients worry the price caps will not affect the majority of patients who cannot afford their life-saving medication.
Gabriela Hernández, 21, studies music education at William Patterson University of New Jersey. She uses Eli Lilly insulin and remains active as a Drum Corps. International (DCI) and Winter Guard International (WGI) athlete despite her Type I Diabetes.
“They only cut the price of a very small portion of the different insulins they sell,” she said. “In my case, I use Lyumjev since Humalog works too slowly in my system. That’s not part of their price cut.”
Hernández has used Humalog in the past, but it started absorbing more slowly and becoming less effective as she got older. Different types of insulin vary in effectiveness and longevity, and the body builds resistance to the drug over time.
Eli Lilly controls only 23% of the insulin market, according to WXYZ Detroit. When they spoke to Michael Greiner, a management professor at Oakland University, he said the price cuts affect older drugs instead of new, more profitable ones.
Nicholas Stark, 18, studies graphic design at Edinboro University. He uses Humalog but is unfamiliar with Eli Lilly.
He has not had to ration insulin or pay the high price tag associated with Type I Diabetes due to his father’s health insurance as a warehouse manager. Stark also wants providers to lower insulin prices.
“Especially for those aside from me who don’t have the needed health insurance to cover the total cost of insulin,” he said.
In 2022, an Annals of Internal Medicine estimated more than 1.3 million Americans ration insulin due to high prices, according to USA Today.
“There was a time where my insurance stopped covering my regular insulin, and I was pretty much living bottle to bottle every week,” Hernández said. “The doctor had to give me samples just so I could have insulin because my insurance didn’t want to pay for the brand I was using.
“I think it was a very rude awakening to the fact that my insurance does not care about whether I can get the medication I need to live,” she said.
Eli Lilly’s Insulin Value Program launched in 2020 and capped out-of-pocket monthly costs at $35 for eligible patients with commercial insurance. It also added a savings card for the uninsured that caps prices at the same amount.
In 2021, Lilly expanded access to $35 insulin for Medicare patients with the Medicare Part D Savings Model.