With the pharmaceutical industry facing congressional investigation for its high prices, Eli Lilly announced Monday that it will sell a generic version of Humalog, its most popular insulin, for $137.50 per vial, half the list price. The new product will be called Lispro and sold by ImClone Systems, an Eli Lilly subsidiary.
Drugmakers are under growing political pressure to lower their list prices, though few concrete steps have been taken so far. One diabetes patient advocate said that she welcomed the price cut, but that pharmaceutical firms could do more: “While half-price is certainly an improvement, it’s still an unaffordable price for so many,” Elizabeth Rowley of T1International told The New York Times’ Katie Thomas.
The new generic version is aimed largely at those without insurance and those who pay a large portion of their drug costs even with insurance. Name-brand Humalog will continue to be sold at its regular price, $275 per vial, “to the insurers and employers who want to keep pocketing the large discounts, or rebates, they receive for purchasing brand-name drugs,” the Times’ Thomas said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who chairs the Finance Committee that questioned seven pharma CEOs last week, tweeted that it was “Good news” but “only 1 piece of puzzle &more needs 2 b done” when it comes to a drug that has existed for about 100 years.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee’s ranking member, was less enthusiastic, saying, “Regardless of the headlines and PR acrobatics, the Finance Committee is continuing to investigate how major insulin manufacturers set and increase the outrageous price of insulin, in addition to other business decisions related to the price of insulin. The company’s decision to offer a generic version of a several decade old drug will be part of the investigation.”
A letter sent to Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks by the Finance Committee last month noted that “the price for Humalog increased from $35 to $234 between 2001 and 2015, a 585% increase.” The government spends more than $1 billion a year on the drug through Medicare and Medicaid.