US drug maker Eli Lilly to cut insulin prices by 70%

Announcement comes after years of rocketing drug prices for Americans diagnosed with diabetes

Boxes of the Humalog insulin injections. Reuters
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US drugmaker Eli Lilly and Company announced on Wednesday that it is slashing prices of its most commonly-prescribed insulins by 70 per cent, after years of soaring drug costs for American diabetes sufferers.

Lilly said it would cut the price of its non-branded insulin to $25 a vial from May 1. It will also cut the price of Humalog, the company's most commonly-prescribed insulin and Humalin injections by 70 per cent towards the end of the year.

The company also capped out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month for patients who have private health insurance.

Insulin prices have been surging for years. Retail prices for some insulins increased by 200 per cent from 2007-2018, according to a study by The Lancet. Some Americans reported spending up to $1,000 when higher doses of the life-saving medication are required.

"For far too long, American families have been crushed by drug costs many times higher than what people in other countries are charged for the same prescriptions," President Joe Biden said in a press release.

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law last year, insulin costs for those covered by Medicare were capped at $35. Mr Biden at the time called on companies to reduce their own prices.

"Today, Eli Lilly did that," he said.

In a separate statement, Lilly chief executive David Ricks said the company's price cuts "should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes".

Mr Ricks said Lilly was working to immediately cap out-of-pocket costs for those who are not covered by the recent Medicare cap.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 37.3 million people in the US have diabetes. Roughly 8.4 million people require insulin to treat the condition, the Associated Press reported, citing data from the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

The American Diabetes Foundation called on other drugmakers to announce similar policies.

“We will work to ensure that Eli Lilly’s patient assistance programme is benefiting patients as intended and continue the fight so that everyone who needs insulin has access”, said Charles Henderson, chief executive of the ADA.

The number of people globally with diabetes rose from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, with the condition most rapidly rising in low- and middle-income countries, the World Health Organisation reported in 2022.

Between 2000 and 2019 there was a 3 per cent increase in diabetes mortality rates by age, with that number reaching 13 per cent in low- and middle-income countries.

Updated: March 01, 2023, 7:37 PM