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March 15, 2023

Insulin prices to drop later this year as Novo Nordisk follows Eli Lilly's reduction

The drugmakers have vowed to slash the cost of the diabetes medications by as much as 75%. But an advocacy group says that's not enough

Illness Diabetes
Novolog Insulin Price Kennewick/Pixabay

Novo Nordisk is dropping the price of its fast-acting insulins, NovoLog and NovoLog Mix 70/30, 75% to $72.34 per vial and $139.71 per pen.

Novo Nordisk will lower the list price of its insulin products by as much as 75% beginning Jan. 1, following in the footsteps of one of its rivals, Eli Lilly. 

The price of the diabetes medication has skyrocketed since the mid-1990s. A 2016 analysis by the Washington Post found that Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly had raised their insulin prices 450% above inflation over the previous 20 years. Those two drugmakers, along with Sanofi, have controlled the U.S. insulin supply for decades.

The cost of insulin is significantly higher in the United States than in other countries, data showsEli Lilly's decision to slash the price of several of its insulin products, including Humalog, prompted speculation that the other major drugmakers would follow suit. Sanofi has not announced any price changes.

The price that people pay for insulin products depends on their insurance coverage. Those who will benefit the most from the price cuts are those with high co-pays and people without health insurance. 

Novo Nordisk said the price of its fast-acting insulins, NovoLog and NovoLog Mix 70/30, will be reduced by 75% to $72.34 per vial and $139.71 for a pen. Its long-acting insulin, Levemir, will be lowered to $107.85 per vial and $161.77 per pen, a 65% reduction. Its Novolin prices also will be cut by 65% to $48.20 per vial and $91.09 per pen.

"Novo Nordisk remains committed to ensuring patients living with diabetes can afford our insulins, a responsibility we take seriously," Steve Albers, the company's senior vice president for market access and public affairs, said in a statement.

Eli Lilly plans to cut the price of its most commonly prescribed insulin, Humalog, by 70% in the fourth quarter. It also is slashing the price of its authorized generic Humalog to $25 per vial in May. And it is capping out-of-pocket costs at $35 per month for people who are not covered by Medicare's prescription drug program. 

T1International, an advocacy group for people with diabetes, told NBC that the cost reductions are a "major win" for insulin users, but said more needs to be done.

"A vial of insulin costs approximately between $3 and $6 to produce," the group said. "$72 for a single vial of NovoLog insulin is still too expensive, so we are keeping the pressure on to demand further reductions."

Lawmakers at the federal and state levels have tried to reduce insulin prices. In 2019, Colorado became the first state to legislate a price cap on insulin. Several Congress members have introduced bills that would implement price caps and allow insulin to be imported from other countries, where it is cheaper. 

Under the Insulin Affordability and the Inflation Reduction Act which took effect in January, out-of-pocket costs for insulin are capped at $35 per month for Medicare Part D recipients. Medicare Part B recipients will be given a similar cap on July 1.

In response to pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups, drugmakers have taken some actions to make their products more affordable. In 2019, Eli Lilly introduced the generic Humalog. Novo Nordisk also began to sell a generic Novolog at half the price. Sanofi offers a program that allows people without insurance and those who pay in cash to get insulin for $99 per month.

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