President Joe Biden this week reiterated his call for Congress to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 a month, slamming drug companies that he said can make insulin for about $10 a vial but charge up to 30 times as much.
A nonprofit generic drug company isn’t waiting for lawmakers to act.
Civica RX announced Thursday that it plans to manufacture and distribute generic versions of the drug “at significantly lower prices than insulins currently on the market.” Civica said that it plans to set its prices at no more than $30 per vial and $55 for a box of five injector pen cartridges — levels that The Washington Post’s Christopher Rowland notes are “a fraction of list prices that currently range from $125 to more than $500.” The company said its price would be based on the cost of development, production and distribution.
“We know that to really solve for the insulin cost and access challenges so many Americans face, we need a process – from manufacturing to setting a transparent price – that ultimately lowers the cost of the drug for those living with diabetes,” said Martin VanTrieste, president and chief executive officer of Civica Rx. “In that spirit, we will ensure patients know where Civica’s low-cost insulin is available.”
Civica was launched in 2018 by hospital systems and health care philanthropies with the aim of producing generic drugs under a different model to alleviate chronic drug shortages. The company says it now provides about 60 generic injectable medicines to more than 55 hospital systems representing more than 1,500 hospitals. It said it expects to begin selling insulin in 2024, after it has completed construction of a 140,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Petersburg, Virginia. Civica’s insulins will also have to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
Why it matters: The high cost of insulin has been a focal point in the fight to lower prescription drug prices, and stories abound of diabetics rationing their insulin or forced to choose between their lifesaving medication and basic living expenses. The plan Biden touted this week would only cap costs for patients with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, which advocates say would leave the neediest patients still faced with paying full retail prices.
And as vital as low-cost insulin is to the more than 7 million Americans who rely on the drug, Walid Gellad, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Post that the Civica Rx announcement could have broader-reaching implications. “Just as much as the benefit of this is in providing insulin at low cost, it is also a proof of concept, I think, of a new way to provide lifesaving medicines that shouldn’t cost as much as they do,” he said. “Also, this is another entrant into the transparent pricing model for drugs, not reliant on a complicated rebate system or inflated charges to work.”