Report: Sanofi to increase prices of insulin products in US, Novo Nordisk may follow suit

Sanofi plans to increase the prices of its Lantus (insulin glargine) products in the US for the second time this year, and Novo Nordisk may do the same ahead of generic competition in the insulin market, Bloomberg reported Thursday. Sanofi spokesman Jack Cox said the drugmaker is increasing the price of its Lantus vials by nearly 15 percent to $16.64 per ml and that of its Lantus Solostar injection pens by about 10 percent to $18.38 per ml.

The company previously increased the prices of both products by 10 percent in April. "Products that are of high value and that are protected in one way or another…have the opportunity to take price increases without sort of messing up the whole system," remarked Novo Nordisk chief operating officer Kaare Schultz, adding "we're seeing that at a slightly higher level than what we had been anticipating." Barclays analyst Mark Purcell remarked that "there isn't a focus on cost-benefit in the US…You've only got, effectively, two players in the market, so it's a classic supply-and-demand cycle, and the demand is huge." Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim are developing a biosimilar version of Lantus, which had sales of about 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) in 2012.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk spokesman Mike Rulis revealed that the company increased the price of its diabetes products Levemir (insulin detemir) by 10 percent and Victoza (liraglutide) by 8 percent in the second quarter of this year. Purcell suggested Novo Nordisk was likely to raise the prices of Levemir and Victoza again this year after Sanofi implements its Lantus price increases. "The actual price of these products varies significantly depending on the rebates that the buyers, typically managed-care organisations, are able to negotiate," commented Rulis. Novo Nordisk executives noted last week that total US drug spending declined by about 1 percent to 2 percent in the first half, caused by a faster-than-expected replacement of brand-name medicines with generic versions, which they said reduced pressure on payers to cut costs and leaves room for price increases.

Earlier this year, the FDA declined to approve Novo Nordisk's experimental diabetes drugs Tresiba (insulin degludec) and Ryzodeg (insulin degludec/insulin aspart), citing a need for additional cardiovascular data (for related analysis, read In Focus: FDA rejection of Tresiba – unexpected, unnecessary and avoidable? – How a delayed US launch for Novo Nordisk's blockbuster in waiting continues to shape the diabetes market and ViewPoints: Sanofi's 'mega brand' Lantus the key beneficiary of Novo Nordisk's degludec setback).

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