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Eli Lilly to Sell Version of Insulin at Half the Price of Brand Name


Eli Lilly, one of the three pharmaceutical companies that control the insulin market, announced Monday it would begin selling a generic version of insulin at half the price of its brand name insulin, Humalog 100.

The new generic, called Insulin Lispro, will cost $137.35 per vial. A five-pack of KwikPens will be $265.20. It is identical to Humalog, but targeted at people who pay for insulin out of pocket. Eli Lilly will continue selling Humalog to insurance companies and employers, who receive discounts, or “rebates,” that lower the cost. However, people without health insurance have had to pay the list price, so Lispro will allow them to access their insulin at a lower price than they could before.

If you currently pay for insulin through your health insurance, you will pay the same amount or perhaps see a small decrease in cost.

The price change comes as manufacturers face mounting criticism for the rising cost of insulin, from both the public and politicians. Studies show prices tripled from 2002 to 2013, and doubled from 2012 to 2016. There are many reasons for the price increase including the cost, difficulty and lack of incentive for creating a cheaper generic; changes to insurance policies that leave patients paying more; a patent system that gives companies a monopoly around their drugs; and manufacturers’ efforts to compensate for the rebates they offer pharmacy benefit managers in order to get insurance companies to cover their insulin.

Higher insulin prices leave many people unable to afford the amount of insulin they need (approximately two vials a month), compelling some to ration their insulin. The consequences can be deadly — one 26-year-old man’s story went viral after he died because he could no longer use his parents’ health insurance and couldn’t afford it on his own. A survey by T1International found that 25 percent of respondents had rationed insulin due to the cost.

In her essay for The Mighty, contributor Christiana Ares-Christian explained that she knows rationing insulin isn’t “wise,” but that she (and others) do it simply to survive.

“I am angrier at the pharmaceutical companies and everyone who is complicit in them getting away with charging people upwards of $1,300 for something that they need to live,” she wrote.

Elizabeth Rowley, director of T1International, told The New York Times insulin manufacturers should do more to lower prices.

“While half-price is certainly an improvement, it’s still an unaffordable price for so many,” she said.

Getty photo by digicomphoto