Eli Lilly program for cheaper insulin not lowering costs, lawmakers say

Eli Lilly's plan to sell a cheaper version of its Humalog insulin has failed to lower costs for diabetes patients, according to a survey released Dec. 16 by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

The drug giant has faced mounting criticism for the pricing of its insulin products, which the senators' survey notes has gone up by 685 percent since 2001. 

In March, Eli Lilly said it would sell Lispro, a version of insulin identical to its Humalog insulin, for 50 percent cheaper than Humalog as a way to help make the lifesaving drug more affordable and accessible for diabetes patients. 

However, the senators surveyed 190 chain and 196 independent pharmacies in all 50 states between May and September and found that Lispro is often out of stock at pharmacies and many pharmacies are unaware the product is available, according to STAT

The survey, called "Inaccessible Insulin: The Broken Promise of Eli Lilly's Authorized Generic,"  found that 83 percent of pharmacies surveyed did not have Lispro in stock. In 14 states, none of the surveyed pharmacies had Lispro in stock, and in 17 states the drug was only available in one of the surveyed pharmacies.

Additionally, 69 percent of the pharmacies that didn't have Lispro in stock said they weren't able to order it, according to the survey. 

In August, the Financial Times reported that most insurers and pharmacy benefit managers still hadn't put Lispro on their lists of covered drugs. 

The pharmacies that did have Lispro did not actively offer it to customers. Only 15 percent of pharmacies offered it without prompting, the survey found. 

"Instead of giving patients access to its generic alternative, this pharmaceutical behemoth is still charging astronomical prices for a drug people require daily and cannot live without. Congress needs to step up and take action on skyrocketing drug prices," the senators wrote. 

An Eli Lilly spokesperson wrote to STAT, saying "Lilly has taken numerous steps to make pharmacists aware of Insulin Lispro’s availability, including numerous alerts and instructions on how to order Lispro from wholesalers." 

The spokesperson added that many pharmacists don't stock Lispro because they have limited refrigeration space.

All insulin requires refrigeration.

Read the full article here

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