Sanders Calls on Sanofi, Novo to Follow Lilly in Cutting Insulin Prices

Bernie Sanders_Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons

Sen. Bernie Sanders/Courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons

Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to Sanofi and Novo Nordisk urging them to lower insulin prices.

The letter follows Eli Lilly’s March 1 announcement that it would reduce the cost of its widely used insulin products by 70%. The Indianapolis pharma is also expanding its Insulin Value Program to cap patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month.

The 70% price cut will include Humalog (insulin lispro injection), Lilly’s most commonly prescribed insulin, and Humulin (insulin human). These will be effective in the fourth quarter of 2023.

On May 1, the cost of Lilly’s non-branded product Insulin Lispro Injection will drop to $25 per vial, making it the “lowest list-priced mealtime insulin available,” according to the company’s announcement.

“We know that 7 out of 10 Americans don't use Lilly insulin,” David Ricks, CEO, Lilly, said in a statement.

Ricks urged “policymakers, employers and others” to also take steps to make insulin more affordable.

"Sanofi believes that no one should struggle to pay for their insulin, regardless of their insurance status or income level, which is why we have a suite of innovative and patient-centric savings programs to help people reduce their prescription medicine costs," said Olivier Bogillot, head of U.S. General Medicines, Sanofi in a statement. 

In an email to BioSpace, Bogillot said the company’s copay assistance programs are available to all commercially insured consumers, regardless of income level and insurance plan. For most participating patients, Sanofi’s copay program limits out-of-pocket expenses for diabetes medicines to $15.

For its part, Novo is also running several programs to make insulin more accessible to patients, Natalia Salomao, senior director, Corporate Reputation & Brand, told BioSpace in an email. The company has an offering through Walmart that provides insulin at around $25 per vial, she said.  

In identical letters sent to Paul Hudson and Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, CEOs of Sanofi and Novo, respectively, the independent policymaker called on both companies to substantially lower their insulin prices.

Together with Lilly, Sanofi and Novo control around 90% of the insulin market in the U.S.

In the letters, Sanders detailed how insulin prices in the U.S. have increased by more than 1,000% since 1996 due to what he called “unacceptable corporate greed.”

In 2019, the drug cost an average of $58 per 30-day fill, according to a U.S. Department of HHS report. For 24% of consumers, insulin fills cost more than $70. Insulin was discovered by Canadian scientists in 1921, who sold the patent for $1.

“People with diabetes should not be forced to pay $98 for a vial of insulin that costs just $8 to manufacture and can be purchased in Canada for just $12,” Sanders said.

Sanders also plans to introduce legislation to put a $20 cap on insulin prices per vial.

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