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Generic Humalog Insulin: A New Alternative, “Not A Panacea”: Shot

Eli Lilly and Company, based in Indianapolis, roll out a half-price version of their insulin Humalog that will be sold as a generic. Darron Cummings / AP hide caption change caption Darron Cummings / AP Eli Lilly and Company, based in Indianapolis, roll out a half-price version of their insulin Humalog that will be sold as a generic. Darron Cummings / AP When Erin Gilmore filled her insulin recipe in a Denver area Walgreens in January, she paid $ 8.50. US taxpayers paid another $ 280.51. She thinks the price of insulin is too high. "It eats for me to know that taxpayers' money is wasted," said Gilmer, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while she was an associate professor at the University of Colorado in 2002. The diagnosis meant that for the rest of her life it requires daily insulin shots to stay alive. Between 2009 and 2017, the wholesale price of a single bottle of Humalog, Eli Lilly and Company-made insulin Gilmer, nearly tripled – from $ 92.70 to $ 274.70, according to IBM Watson Health's data. Six years ago, Gilmer qualified for the Social Insurance Fund – and hence Medicare – because of a number of health issues. At that time, it required insulin she needed to cost $ 167.70 per vial, according to IBM Watson Health. "When it's the taxpayer's money to pay for medicine for someone like me, it makes it a national issue, not just a diabetes issue," Gilmer says. Stories of people…

Eli Lilly and Company, based in Indianapolis, roll out a half-price version of their insulin Humalog that will be sold as a generic.

Darron Cummings / AP

hide caption

change caption

Darron Cummings / AP

Eli Lilly and Company, based in Indianapolis, roll out a half-price version of their insulin Humalog that will be sold as a generic.

Darron Cummings / AP

When Erin Gilmore filled her insulin recipe in a Denver area Walgreens in January, she paid $ 8.50. US taxpayers paid another $ 280.51.

She thinks the price of insulin is too high. “It eats for me to know that taxpayers’ money is wasted,” said Gilmer, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while she was an associate professor at the University of Colorado in 2002.

The diagnosis meant that for the rest of her life it requires daily insulin shots to stay alive.

Between 2009 and 2017, the wholesale price of a single bottle of Humalog, Eli Lilly and Company-made insulin Gilmer, nearly tripled – from $ 92.70 to $ 274.70, according to IBM Watson Health‘s data.

Six years ago, Gilmer qualified for the Social Insurance Fund – and hence Medicare – because of a number of health issues. At that time, it required insulin she needed to cost $ 167.70 per vial, according to IBM Watson Health.

“When it’s the taxpayer’s money to pay for medicine for someone like me, it makes it a national issue, not just a diabetes issue,” Gilmer says.

Stories of people with type 1 diabetes who die when they cannot afford insulin have made headlines. The patient advocates that Gilmer has protested high prices outside Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

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In October, in Minnesota, the state stated that Advocate General Lori Swanson fell ill in manufacturers claiming price-cutting. The pharmaceutical managers were grilled on high drug prices by the Senate Finance Committee on February 26.

This is the reason why Lilly says it rolls out a half price, generic version of Humalog called “insulin lispro”. List Price: $ 137.35 per vial.

“Patients, doctors and policy makers demand lower list prices for drugs and lower patient costs at the pharmacy service,” wrote Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks in a blog post about the move. “You may be surprised to hear that we agree if it’s time for change in our system and that consumer prices come down.”

No panacea

When Lilly Humalog, the first short-acting insulin, came to the market in 1996, the list price was about $ 21 per vial. The price did not reach $ 275 overnight, but annual price increases increased.

In February 2009, the wholesale price, for example, was $ 92.70 according to IBM Watson Health. It rose to $ 99.65 in December 2009, then to $ 107.60 in September 2010, $ 115.70 in May 2011 and so on.

“There is no justification for why prices should continue to increase by an average of 10 percent annually” Inmaculada Hernandez of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, who was the lead author of a January report in Health Care attribute the sky-increasing cost of prescription drugs to accumulated annual price increases.

“The public opinion we have in general is that drugs are so expensive because we have to pay for research and development, and that’s true,” says Hernandez. “But research and development is usually paid for in the early years of one life of life “

At $ 137.35 per vial, Lilly generic insulin is priced at about the same level as Humalog was in 2012, 16 years after it came to market.

” We want to admit that this is not a paradise, “said company spokesman Greg Kueterman.” This is an option we hope can help people in the current system we work with. “

It is not worth the fact that Humalog is a fast acting insulin, but it is just one of The two types of insulin, most people with type 1 diabetes use every day, the second type is prolonged, Lilly makes one called Basaglar, the most popular long-term insulin is Lantus, produced by Sa

However, Lilly’s move on Humalog can push the other two major manufacturers of insulin to act.

Novo Nordisk called Lilly’s affordable generic insulin “an important development” in an email.

“Burning affordable insulin to the market requires ideas from all stakeholders,” says Novo Nordisk’s Ken Inchausti in an email that also listed steps that the company has taken, such as a patient help program. The statement does not say whether Novo Nordisk is considering offering a cheaper version of its popular insulin Novolog, a competitor of Humalog.

Nor did an opinion from Sanofi, the third major insulin producer, say whether the company would offer a low-cost version of its insulins.

“Sanofi supports all measures that increase access to insulins for patients living with diabetes at an affordable price,” said spokesman Ashleigh Koss in the email, which also played out the company’s patient assistance program

Another type of generic

A twist in this story is that Lilly’s new insulin is just a repackaged version of Humalog, minus the brand. It is called an “authorized generic”.

“Who came with the term” authorized generic “?” Dr. Vincent Rajkumar says laugh. Rajkumar is a hematologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“It’s the same exact drug” as the brand, he continues.

Usually, Rajkumar says that authorized generic drugs are being introduced by brand names as doctors to compete with generic versions of their drugs made by competing companies.

But in the case of Humalog and other insulins, there are no generics manufactured by competitors, as there are cholesterol drugs Lipitor or even other diabetes drugs, e.g.

So when Lilly’s authorized generic comes on the market, the company will have both Humalog insulin and the approved generic version of that drug on the market.

Rajkumar says it’s a public relations move.

“There is rage over the price of insulin that is discussed in the congress and elsewhere. And so the company basically says” Hi, we will make the same product available at half the price. “On the surface that sounds good, Rajkumar says.

” But you look at the problems and you think, “Okay, how crazy is this that someone will actually buy the brand name?” “

It is actually possible that Lilly can do the same or even more profit from his authorized generic than it does from the name Humalog, according to Pittsburgh University of Hernandez.

The result margin depends on discounts that the company paid to insurers and pharmacy consultants. Today discounts receive much attention as a factor In rising drug prices, they are usually not disclosed and increased as a drug’s price increases that give incentives to some

“Making an authorized generic is nothing more than giving insurers two options,” says Hernandez: Paying the entire list price for a brand name and getting a higher discount or pay the lower price for the authorized generic and get a probably lesser discount.

d we really need to bring down insulin prices is to get generics on the market and we need more than one, “Hernandez says and adds that previous research has shown that prices are starting to decline when two or three generics compete in the market.

Nevertheless, Lilllys Kueterman says the authorized generic insulin “to help hopefully move the system towards a more sustainable model.”

“I can guarantee you the reason we do this is to help people,” says Kueterman and notes that the company’s Diabetes Solution Center has helped “10,000 people monthly pay significantly reads for their insulin” since it opened in August 2018. For Erin Gilmer, the news of an authorized generic insulin from Lilly has left her mildly encouraged.

“It sounds really good and it will help some people, which is good,” says Gilmer. “It is Eli Lilly and Pharma are beginning to understand that grassroots activism must be taken seriously, and we are at a tip.”

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with Kaiser Health News. Freelance journalist Bram Sable-Smith is available on Twitter: @besables .

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