Uninsured people pay high costs for insulin. Eli Lilly vowed to lower them
A pharmaceutical manufacturing facility owned by Eli Lilly and Company is pictured March 5, 2021 in Branchburg, New Jersey.
Fresh Mike | Reuters
On average, uninsured Americans pay nearly $98 for a vial Eli LillyThe company promised to lower the product’s list price to $25 per vial, according to a report released Thursday by Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Eli Lilly earlier this year promised to lower the list price of its generic insulin Lispro from $82.42 per vial starting May 1. The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company is one of the largest insulin manufacturers in the world.
The Massachusetts Senator’s report surveyed more than 300 chain and independent pharmacies across the United States between June 9 and June 28 to determine if Eli Lilly’s announced price cut “resulted in real relief for patients.”
The survey found that a third of pharmacies charged uninsured patients $164 or more for a vial of Eli Lilly’s Lispro.
Seven pharmacies charged US$200 or more per vial and two sold the product for more than US$300.
Chain pharmacies charged uninsured customers an average of $123 per vial for generic insulin, compared to an average of $63 at independent pharmacies.
Eli Lilly did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the poll.
The results of the survey indicate that “Eli Lilly’s promises to provide affordable and accessible insulin to uninsured patients across the country have not been fulfilled,” Warren said in a statement.
She said the data also showed Congress needed to take more steps to curb overpricing, such as capping insulin co-payments at $35 per month for all patients, regardless of their insurance status.
President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act currently limits Medicare beneficiaries’ co-payments on insulin to $35 per month.
“My new report confirms that far too many uninsured Americans don’t have access or can’t afford to pay astronomical prices for life-saving generic insulin — lawmakers need to step in and take action,” Warren said in a press release.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, speaks during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC June 13, 2023.
Michael A McCoy | Getty Images
Insured Americans typically pay a fraction of the list price for insulin. However, uninsured people often have to pay the full cost, which can force them to ration or abandon life-saving diabetes treatment.
Nearly 30% of uninsured patients with diabetes reported skipping insulin doses, taking less than prescribed, or delaying purchases in the past year, Warren said, citing a 2022 study by researchers from Harvard and other institutions.
“No American should ever be forced to choose between life-saving drugs like insulin and their ability to pay for food, shelter and their daily needs,” Warren said.
Earlier this year, Eli Lilly, Sanofi And Novo Nordisk have committed to reducing the list prices of their top-prescribed insulins by at least 70% later in 2023.
Eli Lilly and Sanofi have also capped the monthly cost of insulin for privately insured patients at $35.
Together, the three companies control 90% of the global insulin market.
Their pledges received applause from lawmakers and Biden, who was pleased the companies were finally heeding calls to make diabetes care more affordable in the United States
But Warren’s poll raises questions about how effective their cost-cutting efforts will be.
About 37 million people in the United States, or 11.3% of the country’s population, have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Approximately 8.4 million diabetes patients depend on insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.