Sanofi is cutting the list price of Lantus, its most widely prescribed insulin in the US, by 78% and establishing a $35 monthly cap for those with private insurance, the company announced Thursday. The change is effective January 1.
The move follows similar ones by Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk this month. The three companies dominate the global insulin market.
Insulin manufacturers have come under increased public and government pressure to lower their prices for more people with diabetes in the wake of the Inflation Reduction Act, which set a $35 cap per insulin prescription per month for Medicare beneficiaries.
Sanofi is also cutting the list price of its short-acting Apidra insulin by 70%.
Uninsured Americans are eligible for Sanofi's Insulins Valyou Savings Program, which enables them to buy one or multiple insulins for a 30-day supply for $35. Another offer allows the uninsured to buy the Soliqua injection for as little as $99 per box of pens, for up to two boxes of pens for a 30-day supply.
Other manufacturers cut prices, too
Earlier this month, Eli Lilly announced a series of price cuts that would lower the price of the most commonly used forms of its insulin by 70%. Eli Lilly also said it will automatically cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 for people who have private insurance and use participating pharmacies, as well as expand its Insulin Value Program, which caps out-of-pocket costs at $35 or less per month for people who are uninsured.
Then, Novo Nordisk said Tuesday that it will slash the list prices of several of its popular pre-filled insulin pens and vials by up to 75%. However, the company did not announce an expansion of its programs that cut patients' out-of-pocket costs, which has been a focus of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats. It runs several programs to lower costs for people with diabetes.
Reducing list prices generally helps lower costs for insured Americans who have not met their deductibles and for the uninsured. Once the insured have satisfied their deductibles, they typically pay a lower price that is set by their insurance plan.
The high cost of insulin, which is relatively cheap to manufacture, has been in the spotlight for many years.
Last year, congressional Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which reduces Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket cost for insulin to $35 per month per prescription starting this year. Republicans blocked a measure to extend that price cap to those covered by private insurance.
In his State of the Union address last month, Biden called for capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month for all Americans. And he later praised Eli Lilly's move, describing it as "a big deal" and calling on other drugmakers to do the same. He noted Novo Nordisk's announcement in a speech about lowering drug prices Wednesday.
High cost leads to rationing
At least 16.5% of people in the US who use insulin report rationing it because of cost, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, the American Diabetes Association says. The trend has continued, with the average retail price of insulin rising 54% between 2014 and 2019, according to GoodRx, which tracks drug prices, provides coupons and operates a telemedicine platform.
Demand for insulin has grown significantly as diabetes has become the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world, a 2022 study found.
In the US alone, the number of adults with diabetes has doubled over the past 20 years, and more than 37.3 million people now have it, according to the CDC. Another 96 million Americans -- 38% of the population -- have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. This can often lead to diabetes.
People with diabetes rely on insulin because their bodies have stopped producing enough of this hormone or aren't using it efficiently to convert food into energy.
When a person eats, the individual's body breaks down food, mostly into sugar. This sugar enters the bloodstream, and that signals the pancreas to release insulin, which works like a key that allows the sugar to energize cells. But if diabetes keeps sugar in the bloodstream for too long, it can lead to serious problems like kidney disease, heart problems and blindness.
In 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the US, according to the American Diabetes Association.
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