Insulin is a life-saving medication for millions of people living with diabetes. But for years, the high cost of this has caused outrage among patients and advocates who describe it as “price gouging.” In the United States, its list prices are set five to ten times higher than in other high-income countries, with an average standardized unit of insulin costing nearly $100. Meanwhile, the cost of producing insulin products, even newer insulins, is generally less than $10.
The Big Players Cutting Prices
Now, two major insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk have announced significant price cuts for their products. Novo Nordisk will cut the prices of several products, including Levemir, Novolin, NovoLog, and NovoLog Mix 70/30, by 75%. For example, a 10mL vial of NovoLog will drop from $289.36 to $72.34. The price cuts come after years of public backlash over the companies’ steep price hikes on it, which has led to lawmakers working on ways to force prices down.
Relevance of an Older Law
While the voluntary price cuts closely track a federal price cap that went into effect this year, health policy experts and lawmakers note that a slightly older law may be the real impetus behind the dramatic cuts—the American Rescue Plan of 2021. The law contains provisions to improve healthcare access and affordability, including one that eliminates a cap on rebates that drug companies are required to pay Medicaid.
If the cap were lifted with insulin list prices set as they are now, its makers might have had to pay Medicaid programs more than the price of their insulin products every time a Medicaid program had to cover one, totaling tens of millions of dollars in payments to Medicaid. But with the lower list prices, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk will dodge those extra payments.
Insulin should be cheap. Here’s why it’s not.
Making Insulin More Accessible and Affordable
The price cuts are great news for the millions of Americans who rely on insulin to manage their diabetes. This move will make it more accessible and affordable for those who struggle to pay for it. Diabetes is a chronic disease that requires consistent care and management. It is estimated that over 34 million Americans live with diabetes, and more than 7 million of them require this to manage their condition. For these individuals, it is not optional. It is a life-saving medication that they must have access to every day.
The insulin price cuts are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. The United States has the highest healthcare costs in the world, and many people struggle to pay for essential medications and treatments. It is crucial that lawmakers continue to work on solutions that will make healthcare more accessible and affordable for all.