By Manas Mishra and Michael Erman
(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday it plans to sell two versions of insulin products at half their current U.S. list prices, eight months after it started selling a half-priced version of its widely-used Humalog injection.
Lilly will sell new versions of Humalog Junior KwikPen and Humalog Mix75/25, which contains a mix of fast- and intermediate-acting insulin, at a list price of $265.20 for a pack of five KwikPens. They will be available at that price by mid-April, the company said.
Major insulin makers Lilly, Sanofi SA and Novo Nordisk have been making some of their life-sustaining diabetes medicine available at lower costs to counter heavy criticism from lawmakers and patients.
People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin to control blood sugar levels, and it is also used by some with advanced Type 2 diabetes as well. Its cost in the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, and stories have emerged of patients forced into risky rationing of the medicine.
Lilly has said insulin is highly rebated, meaning that list price does not reflect the actual cost. Drugmakers argue they have to keep list prices high because of rebates or discounts they must pay to pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers to get products on their lists of covered drugs.
“Insurance coverage should ensure no one with diabetes is forced to ration or skip doses for financial reasons,” Lilly diabetes head Mike Mason said in a statement on Tuesday.
T1International, which represents people with Type 1 diabetes, said Lilly’s half-price insulin has been difficult to obtain and said the latest move “may be nothing more than a further PR response to continued pressure from advocates.”
“The two pen types that were added to Lilly’s half-price offerings today will undoubtedly lead to positive headlines for Lilly, but these pens are not widely used in the type 1 diabetes community and will do little good for patients if they are unable to obtain them,” the group’s U.S. advocacy manager, Allison Bailey, said in an email.
Lilly in May started selling a half-priced version of Humalog called Insulin Lispro.
For the week of Dec. 30, around 22% of U.S. prescriptions for Humalog were filled with the company’s half-priced version, according to data compiled by retail drug price tracker GoodRx from sources including pharmacies and insurers.
Novo Nordisk said earlier this month it would offer free insulin to U.S. patients in immediate need, following its September announcement that U.S. patients can buy three vials or two packs of pens of its analog insulins for $99.
In April, a U.S. congressional committee called on executives from Novo, Sanofi and Lilly to testify about rising insulin costs.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in NY; Editing by Maju Samuel and Bill Berkrot)