Other View: What insulin should cost: Eli Lilly comes through for Americans with diabetes

A vial of insulin costs between $3 and $7 to manufacture, but as of 2018, the average price per vial of insulin in the U.S. was $98.70. Lilly has now slashed its price by 70%.

A unit dedicated to the production of insulin pens at an Eli Lilly factory in Fegersheim, eastern France, on Oct. 12, 2015.
Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images/TNS

A hearty thank you to Eli Lilly, one of the planet’s top three producers of insulin, for slashing the price of its most widely prescribed form of insulin by 70% while capping related out-of-pocket costs at $35 a month. That means diabetics with private insurance will now pay costs on par with the congressionally mandated rate for Medicare beneficiaries set at the start of the year.

More than 30 million Americans — that’s one in 11 of us — have diabetes; upwards of 7 million of us require daily insulin. And according to researchers at Yale, among those who need it every day, 14% are paying a whopping 40% or more of their post-subsistence income, meaning what’s left after housing and food costs are taken care of, on the drug.

If that doesn’t get your blood pressure up, this should: Though credible independent analysts have estimated that a vial of insulin costs between $3 and $7 to manufacture, as of 2018, the average price per vial of insulin in the U.S. was $98.70, according to an analysis by the RAND Corp. In Japan? $14.40. In Canada? $12. In Germany, France and the U.K.? $11, $9 and $7.50, respectively. And no, Americans don’t get supersized vials.

Fixing this ought not be partisan. In 2020, President Donald Trump unveiled a plan to cap insulin costs for seniors, but, probably because the right-wing of his party would’ve howled “socialism,” it was a voluntary program with extremely limited reach. Upon assuming office in 2021, Joe Biden yanked the Trump rule and started anew, winning a $35-per-vial cap for seniors in the Inflation Reduction Act last year and now pushing in this year’s State of the Union speech for a universal insulin price limit.

At least at the moment, Congress looks unlikely to budge — which is why Lilly’s move is welcome. Other manufacturers have a choice: cling to their current price structure for as long as they can, or get with the program.


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