Under growing pressure, Lilly reveals insulin price data for first time

For years, drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. has refused to disclose the average price that customers pay for its insulins after rebates and discounts, calling it proprietary information. That’s even as consumer activists and diabetes patients blasted the Indianapolis company for raising the list price of insulin sharply over the past two decades.

But under growing political pressure, Lilly now says the “net price” of its widely used Humalog U100—or price after rebates and discounts—has actually fallen in recent years.

Lilly said in a new report Sunday that the net price of Humalog, a fast-acting insulin taken before meals, decreased by 8.1 percent over the previous five years. The price fell to an average of $135 a month per patient, from $147 in 2014.

Over the same time, the average list price of Humalog increased 52 percent, from $391 to $594.

Net prices reflect the rebates, discounts and fees that drugmakers provide to insurers and pharmacy-benefits managers.

“To promote greater transparency and better inform discussions regarding insulin pricing, Lilly for the first time is providing both the average U.S. list price and net price for a specific product, Humalog U100,” the company said in a statement.

The disclosure comes about a month after a federal judge ruled that Lilly and two other insulin makers must face claims they gouged diabetes patients through deceptive price lists. A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses Lilly, Novo Nordisk of Denmark and Sanofi of France of raising insulin prices by more than 150 percent over five years, forcing diabetics to forego the drug, take less insulin than needed or use expired medicines.

Last month, U.S. senators grilled the CEOs of seven major drug companies over high prescription drug prices that they say are a drain on Medicare and Medicaid and a burden to millions of Americans.

But as list prices for insulins and other drugs skyrocket, it’s remained unclear how much patients actually pay for medicines after rebates and discounts.

That’s because negotiations between drugmakers, insurers and pharmacy-benefits managers are often cloaked in secrecy, and the actual price a patient pays varies widely depending on his insurance plan.

The average insulin price nearly tripled from 2002 through 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association. Since then, prices have continued to rise, often by 10 percent or more a year, and some patients have resorted to rationing their insulin.

In its new statement, Lilly said its average net price for drugs across its U.S. portfolio—or the amount it actually receives—fell from 59 percent of list price in 2014 to 46 percent in 2018.

“The amount of Lilly’s rebates and discounts continues to increase through a combination of factors—including increased market competition, pharmacy-benefits managers’ increased negotiation leverage, and rising mandatory government discounts,” the company said.

Even so, customers without insurance or with high out-of-pocket costs in the form of steep deductibles or co-pays wind up paying more. Doctors have said that high insulin prices cause financially strapped patients to ration or discontinue their medicines, which could lead to serious medical problems.

Earlier this month, Lilly said it would bring to market a generic version of Humalog at 50 percent of the list price. The lower-priced version, called Lispo, will have a list price for a single vial of $137.35. The list price of a five-pack of insulin pens will be $265.20.

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