March 3, 2023

Eli Lilly Caps Insulin Price at $35, Cuts Cost 70%

Eli Lilly Caps Insulin Price at $35, Cuts Cost 70%

Following a State of the Union address in which President Biden vowed to tackle the prohibitively high costs of medications in the U.S.—especially insulin—drugmaker Eli Lilly announced on March 1st that they will be capping prices for insulin to a max of $35 per month.

The move, Lilly announced in a press release, comes alongside a move from the drugmaker to reduce prices by as high as 70% for its most commonly-prescribed medications. “Lilly is taking these actions to make it easier to access Lilly insulin and help Americans who may have difficulty navigating a complex healthcare system that may keep them from getting affordable insulin,” the company said in the release. 

Who is Eli Lilly?

If the name Eli Lilly sounds familiar, it’s probably because they made headlines back in November 2021, shortly after Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, when a fake account posing as the drugmaker announced that they would be giving away free insulin. 

Source: Twitter

The move allegedly cost the real Eli Lilly company upwards of $22 billion, Beckers Hospital Review reported, after shares in the company tumbled. It also led to Eli Lilly leaving the Twitter platform, along with other pharmaceutical companies, such as Merck and Pfizer, who may have feared similar impersonations. 

Source: Twitter/@LillyPad 

However, in a move that has caused even the man who wrote the fake tweet (Sean Morrow, whom Buzzfeed interviewed) to have an “emotional reaction,” the drugmaker has taken its viral fame to a surprise twist: by now making insulin practically free. 

“Today's announcement builds on years of efforts by Lilly to close the gaps in the U.S. healthcare system that keep some people with diabetes from accessing affordable insulin,” the company stated. “Because of these efforts, the average out-of-pocket cost for Lilly insulins has dropped to $21.80 over the last five years.”

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Changes to Expect

The company explained in its press release that the following changes were being made in price on different timelines: 

  • Insulin Lispro Injection 100 units/mL will be $25 a vial. Effective May 1, 2023, it will be the lowest list-priced mealtime insulin available, and less than the price of a Humalog® vial in 1999.

  • Humalog® (insulin lispro injection) 100 units/mL1, Lilly's most commonly prescribed insulin, and Humulin® (insulin human) injection 100 units/mL2 will be 70% cheaper, beginning in Q4 2023.

  • Effective immediately, Lilly will automatically cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 at participating retail pharmacies for people with commercial insurance using Lilly insulin. According to the company, this includes “ the majority of retail pharmacies.”

  • People who don't have insurance can continue to go to and immediately download the Lilly Insulin Value Program savings card to receive Lilly insulins for $35 per month.

  • Nationwide public awareness campaign to help ensure all Lilly insulin users understand how to access the company's industry-leading affordability solutions.

The company also announced that it will be launching RezvoglarTM (insulin glargine-aglr) injection, a basal insulin that is biosimilar to, and interchangeable with, Lantus® (insulin glargine) injection. The cost for that insulin will be $92 per 5-pack of KwikPens® as of April 1, 2023. And alongside all of the changes, Lilly also plans to embark on a “nationwide public awareness campaign” to help the public actually understand and access their discounted insulin programs. 

What the Move Means for Patients

Importantly, while Lilly’s move to decrease insulin prices may be laudable, it also isn’t something that will drastically change insulin for everyone who needs it just yet. 

"While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change," stated David A. Ricks, Lilly's Chair and CEO. "The aggressive price cuts we're announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes. Because these price cuts will take time for the insurance and pharmacy system to implement, we are taking the additional step to immediately cap out-of-pocket costs for patients who use Lilly insulin and are not covered by the recent Medicare Part D cap."

Lilly’s CEO explained in the press release that 7 out of 10 Americans actually don’t even use Lilly insulin—and that’s a pretty big number. However, he added that he hopes Lilly will lead the way in inspiring others to work towards solutions that bring down the cost of insulin for the people who use other types. 

"We are driving for change in repricing older insulins, but we know that 7 out of 10 Americans don't use Lilly insulin. We are calling on policymakers, employers and others to join us in making insulin more affordable," Ricks said. "For the past century, Lilly has focused on inventing new and improved insulins and other medicines that address the impact of diabetes and improve patient outcomes. Our work to discover new and better treatments is far from over. We won't stop until all people with diabetes are in control of their disease and can get the insulin they need."

Lilly’s insulin program also specifically can’t help people enrolled in federal government insurance programs from Lilly's $35 solutions, because federal law prohibits special discount programs for people who use government insurance. However, federal law provides that Medicare Part D beneficiaries also pay no more than $35 per month for insulin, so the move should not impact people using Medicare Part D for insulin already. 

The press release also pointed out that while the company released these “forward statements” as their plan “there can be no assurance that these efforts will achieve Lilly's objectives or that Lilly will execute its strategy as planned.” However, on social media, some patients have reported already seeing changes in their insurance plans which have reportedly capped some insulin prices at $25 per month. 

What the Move Means for Healthcare Professionals

From a healthcare professional standpoint, this move could lead to nurses and APRNs involved in advocacy to get further involved in advocating for drug manufacturers and companies to lower prices. It’s also a good opportunity for nurses to educate themselves on the different cost-cutting programs available to individuals with diabetes so that they may better connect patients to potentially life-saving medications. 

Insulin has long been used as an example of the disparity and profit-gouging that exists in healthcare, because ironically, the inventor of insulin, Frederick Banting, famously refused to put a patent on the discovery because he believed it was unethical for any doctor to profit from something life-saving. That didn’t stop companies now from raising prices to a whopping average of $450 per month for the approximately 30 million Americans who need insulin. And bills aimed at helping with costs have left significant gaps, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, which left the uninsured and those with private insurance unable to access price caps, NBC News explained

Lilly’s move to lower insulin prices has been praised by President Biden, who called on other companies to follow Lilly’s lead. 

Source: Twitter/@POTUS

The American Diabetes Association as well The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation also praised the move. The JDRF released a statement, writing, “This is a promising step forward in the fight for insulin affordability. JDRF will continue to work with all stakeholders, including policymakers and industry, and support efforts like the Civica Insulin Initiative to keep the momentum going.”

And the news may personally and professionally benefit the healthcare community affected by diabetes. Take 29-year-old Rachel, San Francisco, of @t1diabeezy on Instagram, for instance, who recently made a big career move from PR to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She posted the news about Lilly to her stories and shared a post explaining how her diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is a big “why” behind her decision to pursue nursing. 

Source: Instagram/@t1diabeezy 

“I'm making it my life's mission to help others with diabetes,” Rachel shared. “A lot of people in nursing school are drawn to the profession after the experience of being a patient, or seeing a family member or loved one get sick. my experience is a lifelong dance with diabetes - 25 years, to be exact - that will continue until they discover a cure. being diabetic has had a significant impact on my life, and while i don't like to say that it *is* my life, in a way, it really is. and it's a lot. but sometimes you just have to take the cards you're dealt and make it work. and then help others in the same boat. i'm so excited for my future!” got the chance to speak directly to Rachel about this exciting new price cap. "As a type 1 diabetic, I can say that Lilly's recent announcement about capping insulin prices is huge news and a long time coming. For decades, Americans with diabetes have struggled to afford life-saving insulin, resulting in 16.5% of users rationing insulin because they cannot afford it. I've used insulin lispro (Humalog) since I was diagnosed nearly 26 years ago and can attest to the significant financial burden it has had every month. This news will undoubtedly allow greater access to insulin for all. As a nurse, I'm excited and hopeful to see how greater access to insulin will result in better health outcomes for my patients with diabetes," she said. 

And hopefully, thanks to pressure on drug manufacturers, advocacy, and moves from policymakers, that future will be one that includes a lot lower prices for insulin. 

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