Cheaper insulin product by Eli Lilly finally available

The promised, less-expensive insulin product from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has officially come to market, the company announced May 22.

The rising cost of prescription drugs­­––and the impact on health plans and consumers––has captured the attention of lawmakers and regulators, with insulin arguably being the face of the problem.

The product, Insulin Lispro Injection, is about half the price of Eli Lilly’s other rapid-acting insulin product, Humalog, and is available for pharmacies to order. The drugmaker had promised the product in March.

The introduction of a lower-priced insulin product came after media reports of sky-rocketing insulin prices causing users to ration or forgo lifesaving medication caused major pushback against the pharma industry. For example, the per-dose price of Eli Lilly’s Humalog jumped from $35 in 2001 to $325 in 2015, about a 585% increase, according to senators who penned a letter to the top three U.S. drugmakers in early 2019. According to a recent Health Care Cost Institute analysis, the average annual cost of managing type 1 diabetes rose to nearly $18,500 in 2016, up $6,000 from 2012––driven by higher insulin prices.

The extraordinary price hikes over the last several years have even led some health plans to react. In April, Cigna and Express Scripts, which merged in 2018, announced they would cap monthly out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $25 for members. That’s compared to an average of nearly $42 per month that members had been paying in out-of-pocket costs for the products.

Eli Lilly’s new product is the same insulin, the company announced. The price is $137.55 per vial and $265.20 for a package of five KwikPens. According to the drugmaker, 95% of people in the U.S. pay $95 or less per month for Humalog, while 43% pay $0 at their pharmacy. Eli Lilly is working with payers to expand insurance coverage for the product.

"The current healthcare system isn't working for everyone, causing a growing number of people with chronic conditions to struggle to afford their medicine," Mike Mason, senior vice president of Connected Care and Insulins with Eli Lilly, said in a statement. "But even one person with diabetes who can't afford insulin is too many, which is why we introduced Insulin Lispro Injection."