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3 largest providers of insulin in US now cap prices as public pressure grows

This photo provided by Novo Nordisk Inc. shows its Tresiba brand insulin. (Novo Nordisk Inc. via AP)
This photo provided by Novo Nordisk Inc. shows its Tresiba brand insulin. (Novo Nordisk Inc. via AP)
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Three of America’s largest producers of insulin have announced huge price cuts for the cost of the commonly used drug after public pressure and federal action to cap the price at $35 per month.

Sanofi was the latest to announce a price cut with a 78% decrease for Lantus (insulin glargine), its most prescribed insulin product. The company also said it would drop the cost of its fast-acting insulin Aprida (insulin glulisine) by 70%.

Sanofi said it will also enact a $35 cap on out-of-pocket costs for Lantus for patients with commercial insurance coverage. Uninsured patients will also have prices for insulin capped at $35 a month for a 30-day supply through a company savings program.

“Sanofi believes that no one should struggle to pay for their insulin and we are proud of our continued actions to improve access and affordability for millions of patients for many years,” Olivier Bogillot, Sanofi head of U.S. general medicines, said in a statement. “We are pleased to see others join our efforts to help patients as we now accelerate the transformation of the U.S. insulin market.

Our decision to cut the list price of our lead insulin needs to be coupled with broader change to the overall system to actually drive savings for patients at the pharmacy counter.”

The changes will take effect at the beginning of 2024. They will benefit uninsured Americans who had to pay the full list price at pharmacies and in some cases had to ration their supply.

There are also still concerns about prescription drug rebates causing insulin prices to rise.

While manufacturers may reduce their own prices, pharmacy benefit managers are still receiving rebates in exchange for formulary placement that makes the cost of the drug higher at the pharmacy counter for individuals with commercial insurance who don’t have access to a copay cap through a patient assistance program,” said Lisa Murdock, chief advocacy officer at the American Diabetes Association.

The announcement received a warm reception from the White House. President Joe Biden advocated for enacting legislation to cap the price of insulin at $35 a month and called on companies to enact the change to save Americans money on a commonly used drug that is cheap to produce during his State of the Union address.

A $35 cap was set for Medicare beneficiaries in the Inflation Reduction Act, and a provision to expand that to the commercial market was included in Biden’s budget proposal released last week. Cutting the cost of prescription drugs and health care has been a primary focus since Biden was still vying for the Democratic nomination.

“All three of the leading insulin producers in America have agreed to substantially reduce their prices, following my calls to expand my $35 cap for seniors to all Americans,” Biden said in a statement. “My administration is working every day to bring working people and families more breathing room, and we won’t stop.”

Drug manufacturers have faced growing pressure from the public and Washington for years to decrease the cost of insulin. Multiple bills have been introduced by lawmakers in both parties to enact a price cap, and 77% of Americans support plans to cap insulin at $35 a month, according to a survey on Biden’s budget by Morning Consult.

The ADA has been the leading advocate for cost-sharing limits on insulin at both the state and federal levels, and we’re pleased that the $35 Medicare copay cap seems to have encouraged insulin manufacturers to follow suit—either by reducing their list prices, using patient assistance programs to create a $35 cost-sharing limit, or both,” Murdock said. “Ensuring people have access to medication they need to live resonates with Americans. In this case, public support and policy changes came together."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who made Medicare for All the primary policy of his presidential campaigns, credited the public pressure on drugmakers for the latest movement on insulin prices.

“As a result of a strong grassroots movement Sanofi has become the third company to substantially lower the price of insulin,” Sanders said in a tweet. “We are making progress but more must be done. Americans must no longer pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

Sonafi joined Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk in announcing price cuts to the most commonly used insulin products. The three companies account for roughly 90% of the market in the U.S.

Eli Lilly was the first to announce a price drop, putting pressure on the rest of the industry to follow suit. The company’s CEO also called on its competitors to follow its lead in an interview on CNN after the cuts were announced.

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About 37 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Diabetes Association says around 8.4 million of those patients rely on insulin.

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