Eli Lilly: GIVE EVERYBODY EAT! (And By 'Eat' We Mean $35 Insulin!)
Illustration: Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014, free via Wikimedia.

In a hell of a nice surprise, pharma giant Eli Lilly announced today it's capping the price of its insulin to $35 per month for patients on private insurance, as well as for folks without insurance, too. The new price brings Lilly's price in line with the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act, which capped the cost of insulin at $35 a month for folks on Medicare. That law had originally included a similar price cap for everyone else, until Senate Republicans voted it down for the sake of being assholes.

Healthcare experts say the move by Lilly may lead other insulin makers to cut their prices too, to keep up.

The move brought praise from President Joe Biden, who in his State of the Union Address called on Congress to mandate an insulin price cap.

Biden twote:

Huge news.
Last year, we capped insulin prices for seniors on Medicare, but there was more work to do.

I called on Congress – and manufacturers – to lower insulin prices for everyone else.

Today, Eli Lilly is heeding my call. Others should follow.

NBC News reports that the National Diabetes Association cheered Lilly's price cut and called on other manufacturers to match the price as well.

However, the Executive Committee of the National Association Of Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop just stared angrily at its computer monitor and growled, "Well? And...?"

Lawmakers and healthcare advocacy organizations have been working for years to find a way to reduce insulin prices, so Lilly may simply have decided the price cut was going to be imposed sooner or later, and to grab as much goodwill as possible before lower prices were mandated. Annual costs of insulin can run well more than $1,000 for diabetic patients who need it to live.

NBC News explainers,

Lilly said it will cut the list price for its most commonly prescribed insulin, Humalog, and for another insulin, Humulin, by 70% in the fourth quarter, which starts in October. The drugmaker didn't detail what the new prices would be.

List prices are what a drugmaker initially sets for a product and what people who have no insurance or plans with high deductibles are sometimes stuck paying. [...]

Lilly also said Wednesday that it will cut the price of its authorized generic version of Humalog to $25 a vial starting in May.

The cost of a prescription for generic Humalog ranges between $44 and close to $100 on the website GoodRx.

Stacie Dusetzina, a health policy prof at Vanderbilt University, said that Lilly may not actually lose much money because the insulin formulations they're reducing prices on are older and already have competitors, which "makes it easier for Lilly to go ahead and make these changes."

Lilly CEO David Ricks explained on a press call today that the company decided to bring its prices in line with the Medicare price after discussions with members of Congress.

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act resulted in a "split situation" in the U.S., he said, where seniors benefited from a $35 out-of-pocket monthly cap, but people with private insurance and the uninsured did not.

Ricks said the new price will be available immediately to people with private insurance, and explained that

People without insurance will be eligible as long as they sign up for Eli Lilly’s copay assistance program.

That program began providing insulin to patients — regardless of their insurance statuses — for no more than $35 a month in 2020 because of the pandemic.

And yes, NBC News notes that back in November, after new Twitter CEO Elon Musk rolled out "verified account" checkmarks to anyone buying an account for eight bucks — with no actual verification — Lilly's stock price dropped sharply when a smartass posted a fake tweet claiming that Lilly would now provide insulin for free.

So maybe today's announcement was an attempt to win back some goodwill. (We also learned a thing today: That fake tweet came from a staffer at the pro-union media group More Perfect Union, which hailed today's news by encouraging the drug manufacturer, "You’re getting there, Lilly. 35 dollars to go."

It's very important to provide positive reinforcement to our corporate citizens when they occasionally do the right thing. Well done, Lilly — but come on, what is the other shoe?

[NBC News / Image: Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014, free via Wikimedia]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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