Eli Lilly Cutting Price of Insulin Drugs Humalog and Humulin

Insulin prices spiked in the 2010s, sparking criticism from lawmakers and consumer advocates.

Eli Lilly Cutting Price of Insulin Drugs Humalog and Humulin
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Responding to complaints about the high cost of insulin, Eli Lilly & Co. says it will cut the list price of Humalog and Humulin, its most commonly prescribed insulin drugs by 70%, effective in October.

It will also cut the price of its generic insulin from $82 to $25 a vial.

In addition to reducing the list price of its insulins, Lilly said it is making it easier for more people with diabetes to get Lilly insulins:

  • Effective immediately, Lilly will automatically cap out-of-pocket costs at $35 at participating retail pharmacies for people with commercial insurance using Lilly insulin.
  • People who don't have insurance can continue to go to InsulinAffordability.com and immediately download the Lilly Insulin Value Program savings card to receive Lilly insulins for $35 per month.

"Should make a real difference"

"The aggressive price cuts we're announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes. Because these price cuts will take time for the insurance and pharmacy system to implement, we are taking the additional step to immediately cap out-of-pocket costs for patients who use Lilly insulin and are not covered by the recent Medicare Part D cap," said David A. Ricks, Lilly's Chair and CEO.

The changes won't affect everyone who uses insulin, since many consumers pay a fixed out-of-pocket charge that won't be affected by the lower list prices.

The American Diabetes Association commended the action.

"We applaud Eli Lilly for taking the important step to limit cost-sharing for its insulin, and we encourage other insulin manufacturers to do the same," said Charles “Chuck” Henderson, CEO of the American Diabetes Association. "We will work to ensure that Eli Lilly’s patient assistance program is benefiting patients as intended and continue the fight so that everyone who needs insulin has access.”

Lilly's action is the latest in a series of developments including Medicare’s new monthly and annual out-of-pocket caps on insulin and prescription drugs, state enacting co-pay caps on insulin, other policy reforms, and patient assistance programs through insulin manufacturers.  

Lilly and other drug manufacturers hiked their insulin prices over the last decades, blaming the increases partly on higher fees they had to pay to pharmacy benefit managers.

Prices spiked in the 2010s

Lawmakers and consumer advocates condemned the earlier price increases and called for Congressional investigations and other sanctions.

In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote to the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission complaining that major drug companies had raised their insulin prices in tandem, raising the specter of collusion.

“The original insulin patent expired 75 years ago. Instead of falling prices, as one might expect after decades of competition, three drug makers who make different versions of insulin have continuously raised prices on this life-saving medication,” the lawmakers wrote. “In numerous instances, price increases have reportedly mirrored one another precisely."