The Washington Post

Novo Nordisk is latest producer to cut insulin prices amid public pressure

Costs have become focus of outrage as diabetics ration treatment


Drugmaker Novo Nordisk said it would slash list prices of several of its insulin products by as much as 75 percent, the latest major producer to cut prices following public pressure to curb the cost of diabetes treatment.

The Danish company said it would also reduce the wholesale price of unbranded biologics to match its branded products. The changes won’t take effect until January 2024.

“We have been working to develop a sustainabl­e path forward that balances patient affordabil­ity, market dynamics, and evolving policy changes,” Steve Albers, a senior vice president for the company, said in a statement.

The move comes two weeks after Eli Lilly lowered prices of its insulin products by 70 percent and expanded a program to cap out-of-pocket prices at $35 a month. At the time, Novo Nordisk said it would assess “emerging patient needs and focus on sustainabl­e solutions.”

Novo Nordisk declined to make an executive available for an interview. Asked why it is now deciding to lower prices, the company said in a statement that the plans were made months ago, “but due to increased stakeholde­r interest, we accelerate­d to announce now.”

People with diabetes have a chronic insulin deficiency and often take regular injections to stay healthy. About 37 million Americans live with diabetes, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin to stay alive, while those with Type 2 diabetes may take insulin to regulate their blood sugar or may use other methods such as diet and exercise.

The cost of some insulin medication­s more than doubled between 2007 and 2018, according to the medical journal Lancet, with some people paying more than $1,000 when higher doses are required. Insulin costs have become the focus of mounting public outrage as studies have shown that diabetics are rationing the treatment. Activists have called for lower prices in public demonstrat­ions, and President Biden highlighte­d the issue in his State of the Union address.

Beginning in January, the Inflation Reduction Act capped insulin costs for seniors with Medicare at $35 a month.

The actions by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly probably won’t affect most diabetics who are covered by commercial insurance, experts say, but it could deliver meaningful savings for the uninsured and those with high-deductible health plans.

Sanofi, the other major insulin manufactur­er, said in a statement Tuesday that it is “continuall­y listening to patients, patient advocates, caregivers and others to better understand additional actions we could take to address access or affordabil­ity challenges.” It also provided a list of its programs to help cover costs of its insulin.

Novo Nordisk has a centurylon­g history of making insulin. The market dynamics for insulin have shifted in recent years, the manufactur­ers say, as insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers seek higher rebates from insulin wholesale prices and competitor­s offer new insulin products.

Civica Rx, a nonprofit, is planning to make generic versions of insulin for sale at no more than $30 a vial in 2024.

In a February securities filing, Novo Nordisk said it would reap a lower price for its products after rebates in 2023 than last year, “predominan­tly driven by the insulin class.”

In a statement Tuesday, Lisa Murdock, chief advocacy officer of the American Diabetes Associatio­n, said: “We are pleased that more manufactur­ers are continuing to take steps to make insulin more affordable, and we hope others follow suit.”

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