Pharm maker, PBMs lower insulin prices

April 15, 2019

While pharmacy benefit managers were grilled about insulin prices at Congressional hearings last week, some PBMs, insurers and pharma makers are already lowering insulin costs.

While pharmacy benefit managers were grilled about insulin prices at Congressional hearings last week, some PBMs, insurers and pharma makers are already lowering insulin costs.

Sanofi is expanding its Insulins Valyou Savings Program so diabetics can pay $99 to access Sanofi insulins with a valid prescription. Plus, Cigna and Express Scripts launched a program that helps diabetics pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin.

"It is unacceptable to Sanofi that some people living with diabetes are struggling to pay for their insulin, so we have moved to act creatively and aggressively to help address affordability and access needs," said Michelle Carnahan, head of North America Primary Care at Sanofi, in a statement from the company. "By giving those who require both long-acting and/or mealtime insulins or use more than one box of pens or one vial per month access to their insulins for one flat price, we aim to help limit the burden on the individuals who have high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter.”

Related: Lack of insulin competition high priority for FDA

Under current government regulations, pharmaceutical companies cannot offer this type of program to patients insured under Medicare, Medicaid, or similar federal or state programs, “though Sanofi supports changing rules to expand this access program to all those who might benefit,” Sanofi said.

A year ago, Sanofi launched the Insulins Valyou Savings Program to enable those who pay cash to pay the set prices of $99 for one 10 ml vial or $149 for a box of pens. Now, up to 10 boxes of pens and/or 10 ml vials will cost $99 per month.

Since it was launched last April, the program-available at US pharmacies-has resulted in approximately $10 million in patient savings, according to Sanofi.

Meanwhile, Cigna and Express Scripts’ Patient Assurance Program is available to members in participating non-government funded pharmacy plans managed by Express Scripts, including Cigna and many other health plans.

Related: Eli Lilly launches generic insulin ahead of Congressional hearings

“To ensure people who need insulin get the access and affordability they need, we are partnering with insulin manufacturers to lower copayments to $25 at the point of sale,” Cigna said in a statement.

For users of insulin plans managed by Cigna and Express Scripts, the average out-of-pocket cost for insulin was $41.50 for a 30-day supply in 2018. Patients eligible for the new program will save approximately 40%, according to Cigna.

In addition to Congressional hearings focused on high insulin prices, FDA recently said it is stepping up efforts to increase competition in the category.

The agency set a public hearing for May 13 to discuss its review and approval of biosimilar and interchangeable insulin products-one of its efforts to lower insulin drug prices.

“Insulin list prices regularly increase by double digits annually. These increases have raised serious concerns about the ability for many patients to access the insulin needed to survive,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, in a statement from the agency. “We understand the urgent need to address the high prices and lack of competition in the insulin market.”

Read more: Inside Trump’s plan to lower drug prices