By Heather M. Butts
“Eli Lilly, the largest manufacturer of insulin in the United States, announced that they are lowering their prices, capping what patients pay out of pocket for the drug maker’s insulin products at $35.” This statement, from President Biden on March 1, 2023, is potentially life-altering for many Americans. What are the implications, who will it help, and when will it take effect?
Eli Lilly will begin a nationwide public awareness campaign for discounted insulin that will apply to individuals regardless of insurance status. Details and instructions are at www.insulinaffordability.com.
Diabetes is more common among Black and brown individuals. Not only has the prevalence of type 2 diabetes risen, with 1.4 million people newly diagnosed with diabetes in the United States every year, according to the American Diabetes Association, but costs associated with treating the disease have also increased.
According to the World Health Organization, “[d]iabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. In the past three decades, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries [among] all income levels.”
In an interview with the AmNews, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said that “over the last couple of years…, we have really started to appreciate and understand how important health care is for us as a nation and understand that if any part of our country isn’t getting the care that they need, it affects us all… There’s this new awareness and a heightened sense of urgency to make sure that we’re addressing health disparities.”
In his March 1, 2023, statement, Biden said that “[f]or far too long, American families have been crushed by drug costs many times higher than what people in other countries are charged for the same prescriptions. Insulin costs less than $10 to make, but Americans are sometimes forced to pay over $300 for it. It’s flat wrong…Last year, I signed a law to cap insulin at $35 for seniors and I called on pharma companies to bring prices down for everyone on their own. Today, Eli Lilly did that. It’s a big deal, and it’s time for other manufacturers to follow.”
Biden’s announcement came as Eli Lilly announced price reductions of 70% for its most commonly prescribed insulins. Eli Lilly also expanded its Insulin Value Program, capping patient out-of-pocket costs at $35 or less per month.
“I talked to someone who takes 15 different medications…it’s a serious cost for people who are seniors and people with disabilities, and it not only affects the person—it affects their spouse, it affects the family trying to make sure that they can get the care they need,” said Brooks-LaSure.
“The Inflation Reduction Act [is] really a game-changer in terms of giving Medicare more tools to make sure prescription drug costs are affordable and having tangible results for people over the next couple of years that will make a huge difference in people’s ability to get the drugs that they need and also to make sure that they don’t bankrupt themselves [in] trying to pay for those things,” she added.