Analysis Shows Eli Lilly’s Half-Price Humalog Generic Is Not Readily Available Across the U.S.


In May, two months after its regulatory approval, Eli Lilly’s authorized generic version of Humalog hit the streets with a price tag 50% cheaper than its branded life-saving insulin. But over the past few months, the cheaper option has not made much of a difference across the United States. Pharmacies are still primarily filling orders for the branded insulin.

This week, GoodRx released an analysis that showed only 8% of fills at local pharmacies are for the Lispro Injection. The majority of insulin scripts are still being ordered for Humalog, the analysis showed. While there is no single reason put forward in the analysis, there is some solid speculation as to why the generic is not being filled in a time when insulin is tough to come by for many patients.

When Lispro was launched, Lilly, one of the primary insulin providers in the U.S., said the company planned to work with various health plans and the government to “work toward permanent solutions that will help every person with diabetes afford their medicines." Insulin Lispro Injection has a list price of $137.35 per vial and $265.20 for a package of five KwikPens.

According to the GoodRx report though, some of the reasons for the lack of availability of Lispro is a lack of awareness from pharmacists that this option is now available, or that some insurers have not decided to cover this medication yet. As GoodRx noted, the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts does not cover the injectable medication. Other PBMs list it as a high-tier medication, which raises the price, GoodRx said in its analysis. Lispro is available in both a vial and KwikPen form. Because they are the same insulin, pharmacists will be able to substitute Insulin Lispro Injection for Humalog, Eli Lilly said in May when the drug became available to patients. The diabetes patients who are most likely to benefit from Insulin Lispro Injection are Medicare Part D beneficiaries, people with high-deductible health plans and the uninsured who use Humalog, the Indianapolis-based company said.

Eli Lilly pushed the release of Lispro at a time when there is not only a shortage of insulin products, but at a time when the price has been steadily increasing for years. In January, a cost analysis for insulin was released by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute that showed the price of insulin doubled between 2012 and 2016. According to the report, an individual with Type 1 diabetes paid on average $2,864 for insulin in 2012 but that jumped to $5.705 by 2016. Following its March announcement for Lispro Injection, Eli Lilly released pricing data that showed the price of Humalog dropped by 8% over the past five years.

While Lispro has so far stumbled, according to the GoodRx analysis, another low-cost solution may be available to diabetes patients – Sanofi’s Admelog. First approved in 2017, Sanofi dramatically lowered the prices of the add-on insulin treatment last year as part of its Valyou Savings Program. In 2018, Sanofi announced that the total out-of-pocket cost a person will pay for Admelog and other insulin products Admelog initially had a price of about $450. However, under the new program, its price, along with other insulin products would be $99 for a vial or $149 for a box of five SoloStar pens for one year. Admelog and Eli Lilly’s Humalog both have the same active ingredient, insulin lispro.

In July of this year, Sanofi lowered the price of Admelog to $252.47, slightly lower than the current list price of Lilly’s Lispro. With that in mind, GoodRx said the two drugs have a nearly like efficacy and safety profile, so patients could seek to have their prescribers make a switch in order to save money, as well as ensure greater availability of medication.

In April of this year, Sanofi an expansion to its Valyou Savings Program that lowered the price of some of its insulin products to $99 per month. When the price plan was announced, Michelle Carnahan, head of North America Primary Care at Sanofi, said the new plan will help address the challenge that too many patients face regarding unpredictable and unaffordable pricing for their insulin. Carnahan said concerns over diabetes patients having to choose between paying for their medicines or other basic needs is unacceptable to the company. This new plan will help address “affordability and access needs,” Carnahan added in April.

The price cuts and concerns over insulin prices come at a time when Congress is taking a hard look at drug affordability and availability. Congress pulled the heads of several leading insulin manufacturers in to testify earlier this year. That move followed Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s lawsuit against three of the biggest insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, over price gouging claims.

Express Scripts and Cigna also launched the Patient Assurance Program, which will ensure eligible people with diabetes in participating plans pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin.

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