Eli Lilly to cut insulin prices to blunt criticism

By Frederick H. Lowe


Eli Lilly, a large manufacturer of insulin for diabetics, announced Monday that it will soon roll out a lower-cost generic version of its premier product Humalog, which will be priced at 50 percent less; thereby blunting criticism that the drug’s price is too high.

insulin for diabetes

Diabetes is growing rapidly in the black community and if untreated it can cause death, blindness or lead to amputations of one or both of a person’s legs. My grandmother suffered from untreated diabetes; she was blind and both legs had been amputated. Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.

The lower-priced insulin will be called Lispro.  Eli Lilly reports $3 billion in annual insulin sales from Humalog.

“We’ve engaged in discussions about the price of insulin with many different stakeholders of America’s health care system, including people living with diabetes, caregivers, advocacy groups, health care professionals, payers, wholesalers and leading health care scholars,” said David  A. Ricks, Indianapolis-based Lilly’s chairman, and CEO. “Solutions that lower the cost of insulin at the pharmacy have been introduced in recent months, but more people need help.”

A single vial of Lispro will cost $137.35. The list price for a five-pack of KwickPens will be $262. 20. The American Diabetes Association reported that the average cost of health care for a person with diabetes is $13,741 per year, more than twice the cost of a person without diabetes.

Diabetics can pay for treatment through a variety of methods, including private health insurance, government health insurance–Medicare, veterans’ health program, etc. Diabetics have to pay deductible as part of their health coverage.

U.S. Senators recently grilled pharmaceutical companies during a congressional hearing on the rising price of insulin, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president a second time, has complained about the rising price of insulin, which is used in the treatment of people with type 1 diabetes who produce little or no insulin. It may also be used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes if insulin levels remain low despite the use of other types of medications, although most people with type 2 diabetes do not require insulin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 1 in 10 Americans don’t take medications prescribed for them because they cannot afford them.

Insulin was discovered in 1923, making it an old drug. Once its patent expired, the price of insulin should have dropped, but instead, the price has continued to increase. The average cost of a vial of insulin is about $285 and most diabetics need to use two to four vials per month.

“So how are these skyrocketing prices determined? The manufacturers make the drug and set the price. This is part of the reason why insulin is so expensive,” according to one study. Diabetes also is a growing market. And some endocrinologists have pushed some type 2 diabetics  to take insulin when they could treated the disease with pills such as Metformin, which is effective and less expensive.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported in 2017 that more than 100 million Americans suffer from diabetes or prediabetes. Approximately 2.7 million  or 11.4% of African Americans 30 and older have diabetes, but at least one third don’t know it, according to the U.S. Office of Minority Health.

It is an illness that really hits African Americans hard. Some 12.2 % of black men 18 and older suffer from diabetes, and 13.2 percent of black women 18 and older are also afflicted.

In 2012, non-Hispanic blacks were 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for lower limb amputations as compared to non-Hispanic white. In 2013, African Americans were twice as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes, according to the U.S. Office of Minority Health. And in 2010, non-Hispanic blacks were 4.2 times more likely to be diagnosed with end stage renal disease as compared to non-Hispanic whites.

The CDC reported that diabetes represents a growing health problem and that in 2015, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.


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