Uninsured US patients pay up to $330 for Eli Lilly’s $25 insulin, Senator Warren says

July 13 (Reuters) – Americans without health insurance pay an average of $98 for Eli Lilly’s generic insulin despite the company’s May 1 pledge to cut its list price to $25 per vial, according to a survey of more than 300 U.S. pharmacies by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office released on Thursday.

Warren’s survey of chain and independent pharmacies across all 50 states, carried out between June 9 and 28, found a third of drug stores charged $164 or more to uninsured patients for Lilly’s Insulin Lispro. The highest-priced pharmacy wanted $330.

Lilly (LLY.N), Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) and Sanofi (SASY.PA), which dominate the insulin market, announced in March that they would slash their insulin prices by at least 70% later in the year.

That came after U.S. President Joe Biden’s push to extend to most Americans a $35 cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs available to recipients of the government’s Medicare health program.

Americans with insurance typically pay a fraction of the list prices for prescription drugs, but uninsured people sometimes have to pay the full prices, forcing some to ration or skip taking their medicine.

Lilly said at the time it would drop the price of its Lispro insulin injection, a generic version of its own branded Humalog, to $25 a vial. The Indianapolis-based drugmaker said it charges $25 per vial to wholesalers and retailers, but pharmacies can charge more.

A spokesperson for the National Community Pharmacists Association said contracts with pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen that negotiate discounts with drugmakers and reimburse pharmacies for patients’ prescriptions, contributed to the distorted prices.

Warren, a Democrat, has long campaigned for consumer protection reform, including within the U.S. healthcare system that forces Americans to pay more for medicines than any other country.

The senator’s office found chain stores charged uninsured customers an average of $123 per vial for the generic insulin, compared to $63 at independent pharmacies.

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O), Walmart (WMT.N), Rite Aid (RAD.N) and CVS Health (CVS.N) asked for an average of $166, $161, $89 and $39, respectively for Insulin Lispro at their surveyed stores.

Warren’s staff also said that less than a quarter of CVS pharmacies stocked the generic insulin, whereas 74% of Walgreens pharmacies did, along with 82% of Rite Aid and Walmart drug stores. Almost half – 43% – of all stores surveyed said they did not carry the drug.

“This is a deeply troubling finding, revealing that the pharmacies offering the most affordable Insulin Lispro were the least likely to have it in stock,” the report said.

CVS in a statement said since May 4th its cash price per vial has been $28.99. “If an individual pharmacy doesn’t have a medication in stock, they typically can order it for arrival in about 1-2 business days.”

Walgreens, Walmart and Rite Aid did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the United States with diabetes use insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Reporting by Patrick Wingrove in New York
Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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