Eli Lilly lowers insulin costs as coronavirus crisis deepens

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Lilly is seen on a wall of the Lilly France company unit, part of the Eli Lilly and Co drugmaker group, in Fegersheim near Strasbourg, France, February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

(Reuters) - Drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co said on Tuesday it has capped the out-of-pocket cost for insulin to $35 per month to help diabetes patients across the United States, many of whom are facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The new co-pay scheme covers most of Lilly’s insulins, including widely-used Humalog injection, and can be availed by people with commercial insurance as well as those without insurance.

“Enabling a $35-per-month insulin co-pay regardless of employment status will help many Americans in this difficult time,” said CEOs Aaron Kowalski and Thom Scher of non-profit organization JDRF-Beyond Type 1 Alliance.

However, patients with government insurance such as Medicaid, Medicare, Medicare Part D or any State Patient or Pharmaceutical Assistance Program are not eligible for the scheme, Lilly said.

The cost of insulin, a life-sustaining medicine for people with type 1 diabetes, nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016. Individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans often face thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket costs before their insurance starts paying.

Major insulin makers Lilly, Sanofi SA and Novo Nordisk have lowered the costs of their diabetes drugs to counter heavy criticism from lawmakers and patients.

Many pharmacy benefit managers like CVS Health Corp, Cigna Corp, and UnitedHealth Group Inc already offer coverage plans in which patients pay discounted or zero out-of-pocket costs for insulin and other expensive diabetes treatments.

On average, people enrolled in the federal healthcare program pay about $675 per year for insulin.

Last month, the Trump administration unveiled a plan to limit the out-of-pocket cost for insulin to $35 per month for people who are enrolled in Medicare. The government plans to test the new pricing in 2021.

Reporting By Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.