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Lilly to release half-price authorized generic of Humalog insulin

A new authorized generic of Eli Lilly’s insulin drug Humalog (insulin lispro) will soon be available in US pharmacies at half the price of the branded equivalent. The pharmaceutical giant made the announcement on March 4th 2019, asserting that the introduction of an alternative insulin option will enable it to provide cheaper insulin more quickly and help lower out-of-pocket costs for people who require insulin. 

What is insulin lispro? 

Humalog (insulin lispro) is a commonly used branded short-acting insulin used to treat type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Around 1.2 million people in the United States have type 1 diabetes and require daily doses of insulin, while nearly 30 million are affected by type 2 diabetes, many of whom already use insulin or may eventually depend on the drug to manage their blood glucose levels. In 2016 Humalog was in the top 100 most prescribed medications in the United States, with more than 7.5 million prescriptions filled, according to the ClinCalc DrugStats Database. Lilly’s new insulin lispro is an authorized generic of Humalog.

How is an authorized generic different to a generic drug? 

To be classed as an authorized generic, a drug must be exactly the same as the brand-name version. Unlike a standard generic, it comes either from the same manufacturer as the branded version, or from a company approved by the brand manufacturer. In the case of Humalog, the authorized generic will be available through Lilly’s subsidiary ImClone Systems. 

A further difference between generic drugs and authorized generic drugs is in the inactive ingredients. Generic drugs are permitted to have slightly different inactive ingredients to their branded counterparts but authorized generics must be identical in every way. 

The only differences between authorized generics and branded medication are in the price and the packaging. Essentially, authorized generics offer consumers branded drugs at generic prices.

Sounds good! How much will generic Humalog cost?

Lilly has announced that the authorized generic of Humalog will be available in single vials or in KwikPen form. It will be priced at half the cost of branded Humalog, dropping the list price of this short-acting follow-on insulin to:

  • $137.50 for one vial
  • $265.20 for a pack of five KwikPens

While the price of the new authorized generic of Humalog is significantly lower than the branded drug the price may still be considered prohibitively high by some patients. Furthermore, the list price remains higher than Sanofi’s short-acting follow-on insulin lispro product Admelog, which is available to certain eligible patients for a total out-of pocket cost of $99 for a 10ml vial, or $149 for five 3ml pens for a period of 12 months. Admelog uses the same type of insulin as Lilly’s Humalog, and while it is not considered identical (due to the complex manufacturing process) it is a biosimilar, or “follow-on,” product.   

The lower price of Lilly’s insulin lispro may be welcomed by many patients but some groups remain critical of the high prices charged for insulin, an essential medication for approximately six million Americans. Ben Wakana, executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs, stated: “Charging nearly $140 for a vial of insulin - a drug that was invented almost a century ago - is still too high… We need systemic changes to fix the broken insulin market and finally solve America’s insulin affordability crisis.”

Why now?

The high price of insulin has been a hot topic in recent months. In January 2019, some members of United States House of Representatives wrote to Lilly and other drug manufacturers seeking information about the rapidly rising price of insulin, citing figures from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) which indicated the average annual cost of insulin for a patient with type 1 diabetes doubled between 2012 and 2016, rising from $2,864 to $5,705 per year. The members contacted a total of 12 drugmakers, including the top three insulin manufactures, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi SA.

Jeannie Fuglesten Biniek, a senior researcher at HCCI, told Reuters the rise in costs was not down to an increase in the amount of insulin used or because new products provide greater benefits. “Use is pretty flat, and the price changes are occurring in both older and newer products. That surprised me. The exact same products are costing double,” she commented.

Lilly noted recent changes in insurance design and a shift towards high deductible health plans had left many people more exposed to high drug costs. The manufacturer suggested its release of an authorized generic of Humalog could “serve as a bridge that addresses gaps in the current system until we have a more sustainable model,” voicing its hope that when insulin lispro is available it will be a “catalyst for positive change,” improving patient access to cheaper medication. Lilly revealed it had started preparing manufacturing, labeling and shipping plans for Humalog’s authorized generic in 2018 after looking into whether introducing a cheaper version of the drug was a feasible option.  

Can you still get Humalog? 

Yes, you can. The marketing of the authorized generic does not mean the company is phasing out the branded medication. The more expensive branded drug will still be available in US pharmacies for people who still want to access this medication through their insurance plans. However, for those who pay cash or whose insurance does not cover their insulin, the release of the authorized generic may ease some of the financial burden that comes with treating a chronic condition like diabetes. 

When will insulin lispro be available in US pharmacies?

At the time of writing, Lilly had yet to set an exact date for releasing the authorized generic of Humalog onto the US market. However, the drugmaker asserted it was working with its supply chain partners to ensure the medication would be on the shelves of US pharmacies “as quickly as possible”. 

How do I find out more about Insulin Lispro? 

For more information about the new authorized generic of Humalog and whether it is the best option to save on insulin, you can call the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center on (833) 808–1234. For further information on Humalog and its authorized generic’s indications and side effects, click here. 

Remember, you can also find the best prices at pharmacies in your area by searching for your diabetes medication using RxSpark. With your RxSpark card, you can save up to 80 percent on your diabetes drugs and other essential medicines.