Cap on insulin costs provides relief to diabetes patients

Mar. 12—A drug manufacturer's decision to cut and cap insulin costs means more diabetes patients will have access to the essential medicine.

Eli Lilly announced plans earlier this month to reduce the list price of Humalog, its most commonly prescribed insulin, and another insulin, Humulin, by 70% or more starting in October.

Michael Ruane, pharmacist at the Prescription Center on Cherry Street in Scranton, commended Eli Lilly for making the product more attainable for everyone.

"For an uninsured patient, it's (currently) totally unaffordable to come in and buy insulin in the vast majority of cases because of how expensive it is," he said. "I hope other manufacturers will follow this trend."

List prices are what a drugmaker initially sets for a product and what people who have no insurance or plans with high deductibles are sometimes stuck paying, according to the Associated Press.

An Eli Lilly spokeswoman told the AP the current list price for a 10-milliliter vial of Humalog is $274.70, and the same amount of Humulin costs $148.70. Those costs will drop to $66.40 and $44.61, respectively, the AP reported.

Eli Lilly also expanded its Insulin Value Program, which caps out-of-pocket costs for patients at $35 per month; insulin copays were capped at $35 per month for patients covered under the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, effective Jan. 1, though the Inflation Reduction Act.

"The cap on insulin for Medicare patients is extremely important because a lot of those people utilize Social Security and have a fixed monthly income," Ruane said. "They can better predict what price they're going to incur at the pharmacy."

Ruane believes the price drops should also lead to a better quality of life for many community members.

"The time is always right to make a medication more affordable, especially something that can have such a vital impact for diabetic patients," Ruane said. "Without that medication, their eyesight can go, they can have organ issues, and they can even lose their limbs if they're not utilizing their insulin correctly."

Ruane hopes savings prevent consumers from rationing their insulin supply as more people continue to develop diabetes.

More than 37 million people in the United States — 11.3% of the population — have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese, according to the CDC.

"The lower prices may mean more patients take the proper dose on a regular basis after cutting back due to the exorbitant prices," Ruane said. "They had to make it last as long as they possibly could due to the significance of their copays or inability to afford it if they were uninsured."

Joseph Hollander, CEO of Scranton Primary Health Care Center, stressed affordable insulin makes a big difference for the practice's patients.

"It's huge because many of them don't have insurances," he said. "I don't want to be dramatic, but it could be the difference between life and death. When costs get out of control and you have to choose between a roof over your head, food on the table and medicine, typically medicine is number three on that list."

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