Under fire from politicians, patients and health care advocates over the price of insulin, Eli Lilly and Co. announced a campaign Thursday morning to raise awareness of cost-saving options for the drug.
“We’ve heard too many stories about people with diabetes who struggle to afford their insulin,” Lilly CEO David Ricks says in a letter the company has distributed to media outlets across the country. “That needs to change. You should not have to ration your treatment, and you should not have to choose between insulin and putting food on the table. Your health is too important.”
Indianapolis-based Lilly along with drugmakers Sanofi and Novo Nordisk produce 80% of the world’s insulin. Lilly’s top insulin product, Humalog, rang up $648.9 million in sales in the third quarter alone.
This week, a much-publicized report released by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, claimed prices of insulin products have gone up by 685 percent since 2001.
The report criticized Lilly over its promised effort to increase availability of Lispro, a version of insulin identical to its Humalog, for 50 percent less than Humalog. The senators said Lispro is usually out of stock at pharmacies and many pharmacists are unaware the product is available.
Lilly said Thursday that it launching an awareness campaign because it wants to “ensure people (with diabetes) are paying the lowest cost possible (for insulin) based upon their personal circumstances.”
The drugmaker said the awareness campaign will highlight the availability of Lispro as a cost-cutting opportunity.
The overall effort will include a print campaign that precedes a “significant digital advertising campaign” in numerous news and consumer publications starting this month through March.
The company said it offers numerous discount opportunities for insulin that many patients don’t take advantage of.
In his letter, Ricks encouraged anyone who needs help affording Lilly insulin to call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center, which it launched last year, to find solutions. Among them:
— People with commercial (non-government) insurance will have their monthly pharmacy prescription costs capped at $95 for many Lilly insulins;
— Patients earning 400 percent or less of the federal poverty level (about $50,000 as a single person or $103,000 for a family of four) may be eligible for insulin at no cost;
— More than 150 free clinics across the country receive insulin from Lilly at no charge;
The company also said for anyone who “has an immediate need and nowhere else to turn, Lilly can help you get insulin right away.”
Lilly said it was launching the campaign now because millions of Americans will face high-deductible insurance payments when health insurance plans reset in January.
“We’ve been able to provide solutions for tens of thousands of people who need help,” said Mike Mason, Lilly’s senior vice president of Connected Care & Insulins, in written comments. “And while we’ve communicated the Solution Center as a resource in many ways, some people, unfortunately, are still not aware of the options we offer. We’re anxious to help anyone who needs assistance.”
About 30 million Americans and an estimated 425 million adults worldwide have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type internationally, accounting for an estimated 90% to 95% percent of all diabetes cases in the United States alone.
The number for the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center is (833) 808-1234.