Eli Lilly Offers Half-Price Version of Humalog


I am always happy to hear of developments that could mean more insulin in the hands of people who need it. I think this will accomplish that. That said, I’m a little confused about this new announcement, because it makes it all-the-more transparent that insurance and PBMs are artificially inflating the list price of the insulin. From the article:

“Lilly will continue selling Humalog at its regular price to the insurers and employers who want to keep pocketing the large discounts, or rebates, they receive for purchasing brand-name drugs, while also making available a cheaper version to patients who pay for their insulin out of pocket.”



I guess a step in the right direction?



As if Lily is not benefiting at all with this scheme.



What this means is your insurance company will make you get this version, instead of the normal one. Just like they do with most any generic drug - if you want the non-generic, you pay extra.



I mean – this was my initial takeaway certainly. However, in this case the generic seems to be made in exactly the same way and with the same manufacturing process. So I mean it’s more like they are slapping a different label on the same exact insulin, as opposed to it being made by a different company. And the thing is, there are many, many, less fortunate people out there who need insulin to live and do not get insulin through their insurance. If this means less stories about people dying because they rationed insulin I will think it’s at least a marginally good thing.

Of course, the suspicious part of my brain is like “where’s the catch? There clearly has to be something in it for Lilly – no way would they willingly eat into their bottom line unless they really really see no other choice.”



I am guessing it might have something to do with this:



The link said it was being made by a subsidiary, ImClone. I don’t know anything about them. But I know Lilly has been making insulin since the beginning. I’d just be more comfortable using their stuff.

I’ll buy things like generic soup, generic garbage bags, or a generic can opener.

But I wouldn’t buy a generic parachute.

Insulin is just one of those things for me.

I understand it can help people who can’t afford it. But I’d rather not be forced to use it. That’s just where my comfort level is with this stuff.



I understand that concern, but it’s not being made by ImClone, it’s being made by Lilly and just resold by a subsidiary company.

“Lilly will begin selling an “authorized generic” of Humalog 100 for $137.35 per vial, a 50 percent discount off the list price. An authorized generic means that, except for the label, it is identical to the brand-name drug and manufactured in the same facilities. The new product, which the company said would be made available as quickly as possible, will be called Insulin Lispro and will be sold through a Lilly subsidiary, ImClone Systems.”



I can see how this could be considered the impetus. But Congress has these kinds of show trials to put pharma execs in the hotseat all the time, and most of the time, nothing ever comes of it. Do you think this time Lilly is really scared?

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I do think they are scared specifically because they didn’t have to go to the recent pharma show trial, yet they had all of the documentation and internal messages requested of them. The trials are generally nothing useful, but behind the scenes something may actually get done IF somebody in the investigation is willing/able to actually issue subpoenas for documents of interest, which remains to be seen. I definitely found it interesting that the message to Lilly was structured as “Taxpayers paid over a billion dollars for your insulin last year, tell us why”



Glad to see this, of course, but it’s still over 4x more than the cash price in Canada.

I’m intrigued by the “Why now?”



From Lily’s perspective, $138 is better than $30, right? (Canadian pharmacy price, converted to US Dollars Diabetes Express Pharmacy ). Between the lawsuits, media coverage, and congressional attention, maybe the pressure is getting to them?

@Michel: I recall you reporting insulin prices in various countries on your journey. Seems like they were all around the “Canada price”, correct? It seems to me that the USA is the only place where insulin is around $300 per vial.



Quite a few were cheaper than Canada :slight_smile: Of all the countries we have visited, there isn’t one where prices are even 1/2 of the US.



To me it is even even more outrageous: “you all are really angry, so here, look, instead of selling one insulin for 6* what it should cost and what it costs everywhere else, we’ll sell another for only 3*, so what more do you want?”



This should fast track them to sainthood.

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I’m looking forward to glowing advertisements proclaiming “Lily cares…” or similar sentiments. Good time not to be a TV-watcher,



IMHO this is a marketing publicity stunt so the recent uproar over prices will not affect them as much. If they truly were serious, they would be <$50/10ml vial similar to Walmart pricing (which is mfr by Novo). I realize the insulins are drastically different, but the patent on Humalog is long expired. The only way they can justify price increases is by altering the delivery medium and enforcing a patent on the new method - a nasty way to charge more for a product that should have competition from knockoffs and generics.

Furthermore, the very people they are claiming to help with this cheaper product are still not helped. Factor in PBM/insurer kickbacks and formulary lists and what advantages if any is there. If I was a cash patient it’s a step in the right direction, but show me a copay card that’s applicable and gets my cost under $25 a vial. I don’t think the shareholders would allow it. This recent announcement while progress is smoke and mirrors



To me this is no different than any store marking up the prices on their merchandise by 200 percent before these same items are placed on “sale” where they “slash” the marked up prices by 50%… Still pocketing 150% profit on the merchandise.



Maybe. I agree. It’s clear that their bottom line is going to stay roughly the same. But at least the suffering is a little more equitably distributed. As people with insurance we may see no benefit (and may possibly even see a small price increase), but people without insurance were routinely paying twice or three times as much as our insurance companies were paying, and several times more than what we pay as our co-pay. To me this may help those people, who are frequently in danger of completely running out of insulin. Of course, it will do very little for those with crummy insurance.

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@TiaG where we insured see the difference is on the Tier prices we pay for Rx’s. For me, the difference between a Tier 1 (lowest cost/generic) and Tier 3 (brand name/non-preferred) is 100 /mo/rx. The difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 (brand name/preferred, read the PBM got a deal) is 45/mo/rx. This adds up over the year. Insulin should be a Tier 1 item like most generics. In many US states the basic necessities (staples such as bread, milk) in a grocery store are tax free, with items that are not necessities and luxury (togo) items being taxed at multiple rates. Why are meds not the same? Insulin is a basic necessity item, it’s not a impulse purchase, so it should be a Tier 1 item (lowest cost). Due to PBM and insurer kickbacks the cost is too high to support this pricing model from the onset, as the manufacturer has to answer to it’s shareholders. Maybe the solution is to eliminate the middle man (PBMs) and set pricing limits on Rx’s that are needed just to live like insulin. The US has the highest Insulin cost in the world. Why is that?