Eli Lilly to offer generic insulin at half price of brand

Uproar over high drug prices spurs announcement

By CNN'S WAYNE DRASH CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT.
Copyright 2019 CNN

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly will sell a cheaper generic version of its rapid-acting insulin Humalog, according to a statement Monday from Chairman and CEO Dave Ricks.

At 50% the price of Humalog, the generic insulin lispro will carry a list price of $137.35 per vial, the company said, or $265.20 for a pack of five pens. Brand-name Humalog will remain on the market.

The move comes amid growing concerns about the soaring prices of drugs -- insulin in particular -- which have led many people with diabetes to cut back on their insulin in order to save on costs, in some cases leading to harmful or even deadly complications.

"We don't want anyone to ration or skip doses of insulin due to affordability. And no one should pay the full Humalog retail price," Ricks said, describing the generic drug as "a bridge that addresses gaps in the current system until we have a more sustainable model."

In February, seven executives of top pharmaceutical companies were grilled before a congressional panel about the nation's skyrocketing drug prices.

A week prior, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden began an investigation into insulin prices, sending letters to leading manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi about their recent price increases.

In January, Wyden said there was no clear reason "why the list price of Eli Lilly's main insulin drug, Humalog, went from $21 a vial in 1996 to its current list price of $275."

"Humalog isn't thirteen times as effective as it used to be," Wyden said. "A vial doesn't last thirteen times longer than it did in 1996."

A study last year estimated that the cost of manufacturing a year's supply of analog insulin tended to range between $78 and $133 per patient.

"Charging nearly $140 for a vial of insulin -- a drug that was invented almost a century ago -- is still too high," Ben Wakana, executive director of the nonprofit Patients For Affordable Drugs, said in a statement Monday. "Millions of Americans with Medicare or employer coverage will continue to face Eli Lilly's exorbitant list price.

"We need systematic changes to fix the broken insulin market to finally solve America's insulin affordability crisis."

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.