[Ip-health] Stat+: Lilly lowers most insulin costs to $35 a month in response to Covid-19

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Apr 8 23:14:11 PDT 2020


Lilly lowers most insulin costs to $35 a month in response to Covid-19
APRIL 7, 2020

An Eli Lilly factory in France produces insulin pens.

In response to the financial hit many people are taking due to the
coronavirus pandemic, Eli Lilly (LLY) is lowering the cost for most of its
insulin products to $35 a month for anyone with commercial insurance or
those who lack health coverage altogether.

The move, which will also reset copay cards to the same monthly $35 level,
comes amid ongoing angst over the cost of the diabetes treatment. Insulin,
in fact, has been something of a poster child for the national debate over
prescription drugs costs.

Long before the pandemic caused financial hardship for millions of
Americans, a growing number of people with diabetes were rationing the
medicine, taking trips to Canada to purchase lower-cost insulin, and
protesting outside offices of the largest insulin manufacturers.

More than 29 million Americans, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, have some
form of diabetes, and about 7.4 million use insulin. However, a recent
study found that among adults who were prescribed a diabetes medication in
the past 12 months, 13.2% skipped dosages, took fewer dosages, or delayed
filling a prescription in order to save money. And 24.4% asked their doctor
for a lower-cost alternative.

Last month, the Trump administration reacted by announcing a new voluntary
program to lower out-of-pocket costs that Medicare beneficiaries pay for
insulin to $35 a month. Beyond deflating anger over insulin costs, the step
could also give President Trump a lift during an election year.

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Starting Jan. 1, 2021, people with diabetes who enroll in a participating
Medicare Part D plan are forecast to save an average of $446 annually, or
more than 66% of what they pay today, according to the Centers for Medicare
and Medicaid Services. All three big insulin makers — besides Lilly, Novo
Nordisk (NVO) and Sanofi (SNY) — agreed to participate.

Now, though, Lilly hopes to address people with diabetes not covered by the
government program. “Too many people in the U.S. have lost their jobs
because of the Covid-19 crisis, and we want to make sure no one goes
without their Lilly insulin,” said Mike Mason, president, Lilly Diabetes,
in a statement.

The effort received mixed reactions, however, from advocacy groups.

The heads of two organizations — JDRF and Beyond Type 1, which recently
formed an alliance — praised the move and in a joint statement maintained
that the $35 monthly cost “will help many Americans in this difficult
time.” Both groups have received grants from Lilly.

Still another group, T1International, also welcomed the decision, but at
the same time, chastised the drug maker and argued the lower cost should be
made permanent.


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“Eli Lilly’s announcement is a huge win for #insulin4all advocates across
the nation, showing that pharma-free patient advocacy works. However, this
is also a huge gut-punch for people living with diabetes,” Elizabeth
Pfiester, who heads the advocacy group for people with type 1 diabetes,
wrote us.

“If Eli Lilly had the power to do this, which we knew they did, why didn’t
they take these measures sooner? People with diabetes have been suffering
and dying from lack of affordable insulin for many years. It shouldn’t take
a global health crisis for real action on this issue.”

The three large insulin makers, however, have argued they cannot lower
prices because this would jeopardize placement on formularies, which are
the list of medicines that are covered by health insurance. The drug
makers, for their part, blame pharmacy benefit managers, which prefer
products with higher list prices because these yield higher rebates.

So the companies have instead responded with various programs in hopes of
defusing the anger. Novo and Lilly, for instance, are selling so-called
authorized generics at half the regular price of their insulin, while
Sanofi began a program to lower the cost of the diabetes treatment to $99 a
month for uninsured patients and others who pay cash.

About the Author

Ed Silverman

Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer

Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry.

 ed.silverman at statnews.com


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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