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Partnership aims to make insulin more affordable


CVS, Novo Nordisk launch a prescription savings program to help patients afford essential medications.

CVS Health will launch Reduced Rx, a prescription savings program that will offer discounts on certain medications through CVS Health’s pharmacy benefits manager, CVS Caremark directly to patients. The program’s goal is to help patients with high out-of-pocket costs afford essential medications.

Novo Nordisk will participate in the program, and CVS Health and Novo Nordisk will offer Novolin R, Novolin N and Novolin 70/30 human insulin at a cost of $25 per 10 ml vial, which reflects a potential savings of as much as $100 for cash paying patients. Generally, the cash price for Novolin ranges between $100 and $150 at retail pharmacies, according to CVS spokesperson Erin Britt.

“We believe the Reduced Rx program works to fulfill our company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” says Britt. “The Reduced Rx prescription savings program is designed for people who are facing high out-of-pocket costs, either because they are in a high-deductible plan, or they are uninsured or underinsured. Providing a lower cost option for diabetes patients to obtain insulin has the potential to positively impact medication adherence to insulin and improve health outcomes.” 

The Reduced Rx launch follows another affordability announcement made earlier this year by CVS Health. Working with Impax Laboratories, CVS Health announced in January that it has made the authorized generic for Adrenaclick, an epinephrine auto-injector for patients with allergic reactions, available at all CVS Pharmacy locations at the lowest cash price in the market, $109.99 for a two-pack. 

Patients will be able to present the Reduced Rx card at any of the more than 67,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, including CVS Pharmacy locations.

Variation on a theme


“This is a variation on a theme to push for value in healthcare, where a drug maker is getting a certain degree of guaranteed volume and an expansion of a PBM model into retail stores,” says Ashraf Shehata, advisory leader for health plans at KPMG. “CVS came to terms with a major drug maker with a strong position in a disease category, in this case diabetes, where there is an abundance of patients to serve.”

The fact that CVS is looking to expand into other disease categories is telling, Shehata says. “It will be interesting how the drugstore pursues agreements with other conditions. Novolin is an older drug and this sort of agreement could be aimed at locking up major distribution that creates a barrier to make it harder for other drug makers to produce biosimilar insulins to enter the market.” 

Next: Will this affect hospitals?




Novo Nordisk’s partnership with CVS is an interesting development for the healthcare industry, and one that’s likely to indirectly affect hospitals as their patients enjoy improved access to life-saving drugs, according to Julie Rubin, PharmD, BCPS, director of clinical services, at CompleteRx.

“As drug prices have increased over the past few years, we’ve witnessed the unfortunate trend of patients neglecting to fill their prescriptions-especially insulin, which has seen some of the most dramatic price increases-because they can’t afford them, increasing their risk of ending up back in the hospital for complications resulting from noncompliance,” Rubin says. “This program should lead to more patients filling their prescriptions, and hopefully, a reduction in costly hospital readmissions. Given the apparent benefits to all parties, I fully expect to see more partnerships like it in the future.”


Medical Economist Robert Goldberg, PhD, co-founder and vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, believes that “this is an act of desperation that begs the question about why PBMs don't just pass through all discounts to consumers for all medicines. Indeed, PBMs will continue to pocket rebates and impose cost sharing on those people who have no other choice but to get their benefits from them,” he says. 

Finally, says Goldberg, it perpetuates and explodes the myth that PBMs depend upon restricting access to generate savings for consumers. “If all PBMs will do is give patients net pricing of drugs why do we need them?” he asks.

“We developed this specific offering with Novo Nordisk because we both recognized a need and an opportunity to make insulin more affordable for patients.  We anticipate that over time CVS Health will expand the medications offered to patients at a lower price through the Reduced Rx program, covering other conditions and other medications,” Britt says.

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