Novo Nordisk becomes latest to announce it is cutting insulin prices by up to 75%
Novo Nordisk announced on Tuesday that it will slash list prices of several of its popular pre-filled insulin pens and vials by up to 75%, becoming the latest drugmaker to cut the cost of the vital drug for diabetes patients. The change will take effect on January 1st.
However, the company did not announce an expansion of its programs that lower patient costs, which has been a focus of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.
Novo Nordisk’s move comes two weeks after Eli Lilly announced a series of price cuts that would cut the price of the most commonly used forms of its insulin by 70%. Eli Lilly also said it will automatically cap out-of-pocket insulin costs to $35 for people who have private insurance and use participating pharmacies, as well as expand its Insulin Value Program, which will cap out-of-pocket costs to $35 – Dollars or less per limited month for uninsured.
After the discounts, NovoLog and NovoLog Mix 70/30 from Novo Nordisk cost $72.34 per vial and $139.71 per FlexPen.
The company is also reducing the list price of Levemir and Novolin by 65% to $107.85 per vial and $161.77 per FlexPen for Levemir and $48.20 per vial and $91.09 per FlexPen for Novolin.
Novo Nordisk is reducing the price of two unbranded insulin products to also match the lower price of their respective brands.
Reducing list prices generally helps lower costs for insured Americans who have not yet met their deductibles and for the uninsured. Once insureds have met their deductible, they typically pay a lower rate set by their insurance plan.
The price cuts have been in development for many months, but Novo Nordisk has accelerated its announcement due to increased stakeholder interest, said Allison Schneider, the company’s head of media relations.
“The goal is that our programs together will help more and more people to better afford their insulin,” she said.
The high cost of insulin, which is relatively cheap to manufacture, has been in the spotlight for many years.
Last year, Democrats in Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which lowers Medicare beneficiaries’ co-payments for insulin to $35 per month per prescription starting this year. Republicans blocked a measure to extend that price cap to those covered by private insurance.
In his State of the Union address last month, Biden called for a cap on insulin costs for all Americans to $35 a month. And he praised Eli Lilly’s move, describing it as “a big deal” and urging other drugmakers to do the same.
Novo Nordisk runs several programs to reduce insulin costs for people with diabetes, including a long-standing program that makes human insulin available at Walmart for about $25 a vial. It’s also available from CVS for $25.
The company also offers co-pay savings cards that allow eligible patients on commercial insurance plans to pay for multiple insulin products for as little as $25 to $35. And in 2021, it created My$99Insulin, which offers a 30-day supply of a combination of insulin products for $99.
The American Diabetes Association is pleased that more manufacturers are making efforts to make insulin more affordable.
“We hope others will follow our lead,” said Lisa Murdock, the association’s chief advocacy officer.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 16.5% of people in the US who use insulin say they ration it to save money.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. The trend has continued, with the average retail price of insulin rising 54% between 2014 and 2019, according to GoodRx, which tracks drug prices, offers coupons, and operates a telemedicine platform.
Demand for insulin has increased significantly as diabetes has become the world’s fastest growing chronic disease, a 2022 study found.
In the US alone, the number of adults with diabetes has doubled in the past 20 years, and it now affects more than 37.3 million people, according to the CDC. Another 96 million Americans — 38% of the population — have prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. This can often lead to diabetes.
People with diabetes depend on insulin because their bodies have stopped making enough of the hormone or aren’t using it efficiently to convert food into energy.
When a person eats, the person’s body breaks down the food, primarily into sugar. This sugar enters the bloodstream and signals the pancreas to release insulin, which acts like a key, allowing the sugar to fuel cells. But when diabetes keeps sugar in the bloodstream for too long, it can lead to serious problems like kidney disease, heart problems and blindness.
In 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.