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Popular Diabetes Drug Gets Half-Priced Alternative

Eli Lilly announces 'authorized generic' version of Humalog insulin
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2019 4:31 PM CST
A woman prepares to give herself an insulin injection.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

(Newser) – Drug-maker Eli Lilly is coming out with a half-priced version of its popular insulin Humalog. In fact, the drug called Insulin Lispro will be identical to Humalog except for its packaging and its price—it will cost $137.50 per vial, or 50% less than Humalog, reports the New York Times. Lispro will be what is known in the pharma industry as an "authorized generic," meaning it gets made in the same way at the same facilities, but it will be sold under a different name, in this case by Eli Lilly subsidiary ImClone Systems. The move comes as lawmakers have been putting the big three makers of insulin—Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi—under scrutiny because of their drugs' steadily rising prices. Humalog, for example, costs about $275 per vial, up from roughly $20 per vial in 1996. Patients typically use two vials a month.

List prices, like the $275 for Humalog, are generally reduced through rebates negotiated with pharmacy benefit managers, per the AP. But for those without insurance or stuck with high deductibles, a high list price can be a burden. The generic version should help these people the most. As Business Insider puts it, "through the authorized generic, Lilly can get around the middlemen, potentially giving patients a lower price at the pharmacy counter, while keeping just as much revenue for itself." Critics say the move isn't enough: "Clearly, the insulin cartel is feeling pressure after years of price gouging a lifesaving drug," says Ben Wakana of Patients for Affordable Drugs. Elizabeth Rowley of the diabetes advocacy group T1International says the discount is an improvement, but the price remains unaffordable for many. (Did insulin rationing kill a 26-year-old?)

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