Eli Lilly to launch authorised Humalog generic in the US at 50-percent lower list price

Eli Lilly said Monday that it will launch an authorised generic version of Humalog (insulin lispro) in the US at a 50-percent lower list price than the original branded product as part of efforts to address the issue of patients' high out-of-pocket costs. CEO David Ricks remarked "for people with diabetes, a lower-priced insulin can serve as a bridge that addresses gaps in the system until a more sustainable model is achieved."

According to Eli Lilly, the authorised generic version of Humalog will be available in vial and pen options, with a single vial carrying a list price of $137.35. Meanwhile, the list price of a five-pack of KwikPens will be $265.20. The drugmaker explained that "introducing an alternative insulin option allows [Eli] Lilly to provide a lower-priced insulin more quickly while providing payers time to renegotiate downstream contracts and adjust to new system economics."

Enrique Conterno, president of Eli Lilly's diabetes division, noted that the list price of the authorised generic version of Humalog will be comparable to the net price that the company regularly offers to insurers in exchange for standard placement on their formulary. However, Conterno said that Eli Lilly provides larger discounts to insurers that give Humalog preferred status. The executive suggested that the drugmaker is also considering releasing authorised generics for other insulin products, commenting "we also want to see how this works…[as] we are entering unusual territory."

Eli Lilly indicated that after exploring the logistics and feasibility of an authorised generic, it began preparing manufacturing, labelling and shipping plans for the product last year. "While this change is a step in the right direction, all of us in the health care community must do more to fix the problem of high out-of-pocket costs for Americans living with chronic conditions," Ricks said, adding "we hope our announcement is a catalyst for positive change across the US health care system."

Earlier this year, two US House Democrats sent letters to Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi seeking information on why the cost of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, noting that recent price rises have put the treatment "out of reach for many patients," with some also rationing doses. The request came shortly after the US House of Representatives' Oversight Committee started a probe into a dozen pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, regarding drug pricing, asking for information and communications about price increases, R&D investments and corporate strategies to maintain market share and pricing power.

Ricks said that Eli Lilly has "engaged in discussions about the price of insulin with many different stakeholders in America's health care system," adding that while "solutions that lower the cost of insulin at the pharmacy have been introduced in recent months…more people need help." Ricks remarked "the significant rebates we pay on insulins do not directly benefit all patients. This needs to change."

Last week, CEOs and senior executives from AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson appeared before the US Senate Finance Committee to testify about the high cost of drugs in the country. The executives, who continued to blame pharmacy benefit managers and insurers for keeping negotiated discounts on prescription drugs for themselves rather than passing them on to patients, made various proposals to address the problem, including offering incentives to increase use of generic versions of biotechnology treatments and more financial help for patients. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Pharma gets what it needs from Senate hearing.

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