Lilly Slashed Its Insulin Prices. Will Sanofi and Novo Nordisk Do the Same?

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Patient groups and lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders want Sanofi and Novo Nordisk to follow Eli Lilly's example and reduce the prices of their insulin products. Both companies said they already have programs that bring down the cost.

Eli Lilly’s announcement today that it was slashing the list prices of its top-selling insulin products by 70% was heralded as a victory for patients and pressure on drugmakers. Attention pivoted almost immediately to the two other insulin makers, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, and their pricing policies.

“Eli Lilly’s price cut will help, but it is the result of relentless pressure by diabetes advocates in this country and around the world” tweeted David Mitchell, founder and president of Patients for Affordable Drugs. “Novo Nordisk and SanofiUS should follow suit. If Lilly can make $$ at this price, so can they.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont posted the letters he wrote to Paul Hudson, the CEO of Sanofi, and Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, president and CEO of Novo Nordisk, on Twitter, calling on them to lower prices. “People with diabetes should not be forced to pay $98 for a vial of insulin that costs just $8 to manufacture and can be purchased in Canada for just $12,” said the letters.

President Joe Biden didn’t name Sanofi or Novo Nordisk, but he mentioned the $35-a-month cap on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries that was part of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. “In my State of the Union, I said we needed to finish the job. Well, today, Eli Lilly announced that they’re lowering prices for everyone else to $35. Let’s keep it going.”

Sanofi issued a statement that cited its copay assistance and other programs that the company says substantially lower out-of-pocket costs. Most of the participants in one program for people with commercial insurance pay $15 or less for a month’s supply of diabetes medications, said the statement, which also mentioned a “Sanofi Patient Connection” program that company said provides free medications to qualified low- and middle-income people.

Novo Nordisk issued a statement pointing to an arrangement it has with Walmart that the company says prices its insulin at about $25 per vial. The Novo Nordisk statement mentions several other programs that the company says brings the price of insulin down significantly. In the same statement, the Danish company said that 90% of those with commercial or government health insurance pay$1.50 a day (which works out to $45 per month) for its insulin.

Lilly is cutting list prices, which stands to benefit people who need insulin who don’t have insurance or who are underinsured and so may be paying a list price, However, as the Wall Street Journal, for those with insurance the reductions in list prices may not get reflected in insurance copays.

Lilly announced the price cuts this morning. Major news organizations reported the announcement, and it was a trending topic on Twitter for much of the day.

In the announcement, Lilly said that its most prescribed form of insulin, Humalog (insulin lispro injection) 100 units/mL1, will be reduced by 70% in the fourth quarter of this year. The company also said it would cut the list price of Humulin® (insulin human) injection 100 units/mL2 by 70%, also in the fourth quarter.

Lilly also announced that it was cutting its nonbranded insulin, Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL, to $25 a vial starting in May.

In addition to the price cut, Lilly said today that it would launch Rezvoglar (insulin glargine-aglr), its interchangeable biosimilar to Sanofi’s Lantus (insulin glargine) in April at price that Lilly says is 78% less than Lantus’ price. Rezvoglar will join Semglee (insulin glargine-yfgn) as interchangeable competitors to Lantus. Lilly has another Lantus biosimilar, Basaglar, on the market but it is not interchangeable.

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