Lilly to offer insulin at discounted prices to certain patients

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday that certain patients could secure a discount of up to 40 percent on its insulin products through its partnership with Express Scripts Holding Co.

The discount - designed for patients who pay full retail prices at the pharmacy, such as those who are uninsured - is being put in place for products purchased on Blink Health mobile and web platforms, effective Jan. 1.

Over the course of the U.S. presidential campaign inflated drug prices have been criticized in context of the heavy burden on consumers, many of whom can’t afford medicines or face increasing co-pays on prescription drugs.

Changes in insurance benefits have increased the cost of insulin for some people, Lilly said, noting that discounts and rebates don’t directly help the uninsured or people in the deductible phase of their plans.

A deductible is the amount a patient pays for covered health care services before the insurer starts to pay.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in November raised concerns about the sky-rocketing prices of insulin.

“People are dying or getting sicker because they can’t afford their insulin, just so Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk can make outrageous profits,” he tweeted.

Two prominent U.S. lawmakers also called on federal antitrust regulators to probe if Lilly, Sanofi SA, Merck & Co Inc and Novo Nordisk A/S colluded to set prices for insulin and other diabetes drugs.

The original patent on insulin, a hormone used by diabetics to control blood sugar levels, expired 75 years ago.

Patients can make purchases using a smartphone app or the Blink Health website, which has no membership fees. After entering their prescription details, a discount will be automatically applied.

Payments will be made online and filled prescriptions can be picked up at any U.S. pharmacy, including CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Target Corp.

The discount program includes Lilly products such as Humalog, Basaglar and a long-acting biologic being introduced this month by Lilly and Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim, it said.

Blink Health was previously used to provide discounts on generic prescription drugs only.

Separately on Tuesday, CVS announced a new diabetes program designed to help its pharmacy benefit management clients improve health outcomes by following medication and lifestyle management regimens.

This program, which will be available early next year, could save between $3,000 and $5,000 annually for members who successfully improve control of their diabetes, CVS said.

Reporting by Natalie Grover and Divya Grover; Editing by Martina D’Couto