Lawmakers Press Lilly, Novo, Sanofi for Details on Insulin Assistance Programs
Pictured: Capitol building housing the U.S. senate/iStock, Mikhail Makarov
U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN) on Thursday wrote to the chief executive officers of Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, asking the companies to provide details on their low-cost insulin assistance programs.
In March 2023, Lilly announced that it was slashing the prices of its most commonly prescribed insulin products by 70%, while expanding its Insulin Value Program to cap patients’ out-of-pocket monthly spend at $35. Novo Nordisk and Sanofi followed suit, also revealing steep discounts and more comprehensive access programs.
These companies account for some 90% of the U.S. insulin market.
However, in their letter Thursday, the Democratic senators contend that the companies had not made it clear how patients can access these support schemes, nor had they ensured that patients could “actually enroll” into these programs which are “replete with obstacles.”
In particular, the senators wrote in their letter that they are “concerned that the Patient Assistance Programs used by your companies involve lengthy and technical application processes that significantly limit patient access to affordable insulin.” Some patients, for example, may need to accomplish five to 10 pages of documentation to apply for these access programs.
The senators are asking Sanofi, Novo and Lilly for a full copy of the Patient Assistance Program application form, along with a list of any additional steps that patients need to accomplish beyond the application document. The companies must also detail what personal information and additional documentation from a medical provider their application processes require.
The drugmakers have until Sept. 15 to provide the information.
Thursday’s letter from the senators comes as a broader effort is underway in the Biden adminisgtration to lower drug prices. President Joe Biden in August 2022 signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which aims to save $25 billion in drug costs over the next eight years.
The IRA includes a drug price negotiation provision that empowers the Department of Health and Human Services to renegotiate the Medicare prices of the most widely prescribed treatments, which are set to take effect in 2026.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the list of the first 10 medicine products to be affected by the negotiation program. Among these are Novo’s insulin products Fiasp and NovoLog, as well as the diabetes drugs Jardiance (empagliflozin) from Lilly, Januvia (sitagliptin) from Merck and Farxiga (dapagliflozin) from AstraZeneca.
Together, these 10 drugs cost the U.S. government around $50 billion from June 2022 to May 2023.