Insulin prices have been rising — increases that mean some people are spending as much on monthly diabetes-related expenses as their mortgage payment.
As a result, the companies that make insulin have been under fire from the public and politicians including US Senator Bernie Sanders.
In response, one of those insulin-makers, Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, said Thursday that it’s partnered with CVS Caremark to provide $US25 vials of insulin, roughly $US100 less than the list price.
The insulins that will be part of the deal for now are Novolin R, Novolin N and Novolin 70/30. These are human insulins, which scientists discovered in the 1970s. It uses recombinant DNA to manufacture real human insulin, so that it no longer had to come from animals.
It’s the precursor to a type of insulin called analogue, the most prescribed insulin at the moment. Analogue insulins are slight variations of human insulin that aim to help diabetics’ bodies function more closely to how they would if they were able to produce the insulin themselves, and they tend to be more expensive than the human insulins.
The $US25 insulin prescription savings program is the first step as part of Novo’s pledge to keep out of pocket costs low to consumers. In December 2016, Novo also said it will limit all future drug list price increases from the company to single digit percentages.
“We’re committed to developing sustainable solutions with customers and will continue to pursue opportunities to ensure that patients have access to insulin that is affordable,” Doug Langa, senior vice president and head of North America operations at Novo said in a news release.
In December, Novo’s rival, Lilly began offering more than 40% discounts off the list price of its insulins through an app called Blink Health, which lets users pre-pay for your prescriptions to lock in discounts.
The partnership comes at a time when the high list prices for prescription drugs has been called into question, with many focusing on the role that middlemen including pharmacy benefits managers — like CVS Caremark — play in that rising price. Pharmacy benefit managers are the companies responsible for negotiating rebates to the prices drugmakers set, and they are meant to favour the most effective drug. This is meant to help keep prices low.
Many question how effective they are at doing that, especially when it comes to people with high deductible health plans who are on the hook for the full list price of the drug.
On Wednesday, Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill that’s designed to shed some light on PBMs, requiring them to share more information about the rebates they receive.
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