This post originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Cody Mello-Klein.
Eli Lilly, one of the “big three” insulin producers, is cutting the price of its insulin by 70% and capping out-of-pocket monthly costs at $35 for those who use this lifesaving form of diabetes care.
Concerns about the high cost of insulin have been long-standing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million people in the U.S., 11.3% of the population, have diabetes. For many of them, regular insulin injections are one of their main methods of care. However, the cost of insulin skyrocketed by 262% between 2007 and 2018, with the list price increasing by 40% between 2014 and 2018 alone. In recent years, costs have become so high––Eli Lilly charged $530.40 for a five-pack of its commonly-prescribed Humalog––that people have started rationing insulin.
Gary Young, director of Northeastern University's Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research, professor of strategic management and healthcare systems, says insulin has become “a lightning rod” for concerns about rising drug costs. But Eli Lilly's decision is only the latest move in the fight to lower drug costs.
“Eli Lilly's action, in fact, is the tip of the iceberg in the sense that we're going to be dealing with this in much more extensive ways in the near future with many more drugs coming to the market,” Young says.
In some ways, insulin is “low hanging fruit” for drug companies to target, Young says. It's relatively inexpensive to produce, yields high profit and is mostly concentrated in the hands of three companies: Eli Lilly, Norvo Nordisk and Sanofi.
Young says Eli Lilly's move to lower prices could prompt Norvo Nordisk and Sanofi to do the same at a time when companies are facing pressure from regulators and the public.