Amid Outcry Over High Costs, Eli Lilly Launches Lower-Priced Insulin Lispro

Eli Lilly and Company announced this week that it has made a lower-cost insulin lispro injection available in pharmacies. The company said that the authorized version carries a list price ($137.35 per vial and $265.20 for a package of 5 pens) that is 50% lower than that of the brand-name Humalog injection.
The Center for Biosimilars Staff
May 23, 2019
Eli Lilly and Company announced this week that it has made a lower-cost insulin lispro injection available in pharmacies. The company said that the authorized version carries a list price ($137.35 per vial and $265.20 for a package of 5 pens) that is 50% lower than that of the brand-name Humalog injection.

Because the authorized product is the same formulation as Humalog, it will be substitutable at the pharmacy level. Lilly says that patients should ask their pharmacists whether the branded drug or the authorized version will be cheaper for them under their insurance plans.

The move comes just a month after a House of Representatives subcommittee heard testimony that 1 in 4 patients with diabetes are skipping doses or rationing their insulin due to price, which can lead to severe complications or death. The committee also heard testimony that Humalog cost just $21 per vial in 1996 versus $270 today.

"The current healthcare system isn't working for everyone, causing a growing number of people with chronic conditions to struggle to afford their medicine," said Mike Mason, senior vice president of connected care and insulins for Lilly, 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. It adds to our suite of solutions that help significantly lower the amount people pay until a more sustainable solution is achieved."

Advocates for patients say that the price of the authorized version of the product is still too high, however; in a statement responding to news that Lilly would launch the cheaper product, Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs, said “Clearly, the insulin cartel is feeling pressure after years of price-gouging a lifesaving drug. But charging nearly $140 for a vial of insulin—a drug that was invented almost a century ago—is still too high. Millions of Americans with Medicare or employer coverage will continue to face Eli Lilly’s exorbitant list price.”

The launch of the reduced-cost version of the drug comes after Lilly issued comments earlier this year regarding the FDA’s proposed approach to the transition of insulins and other products that have historically been regulated as drugs and follow-ons to regulation as biologics and biosimilars.

In its comments to the agency, Lilly voiced its support of the FDA’s proposed approach to the transition, but it also called on the FDA to clarify whether drug product developers can introduce “second versions” of their innovator biologics, calling these potential products “branded biosimilars” or “authorized biologics.”

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