Drugmaker Eli Lilly Drastically Cutting Cost of Insulin

Drug manufacturer Eli Lilly announced on Wednesday that it plans to drastically cut the cost of insulin. Lilly has often been criticized for increasing the cost of insulin products for no clear reason, but now it will reportedly cap out-of-pocket prices at $35 per month. This could impact millions of Americans and literally save lives once enacted.

Eli Lilly is the drugmaker behind some of the most widely used insulin products in the world which primarily treat diabetes. Over the last three decades, the company has raised the price of its drug Humalog by over 1,000 percent according to a report by The New York Times. That drug will now drop in price from $275 per vial to $66. Previously, some patients were paying over $1,000 per month for this medication even if they have health insurance coverage. The company has reportedly faced mounting political pressure over these prices and their soaring profits.

Now, Lilly says it will cap the out-of-pocket cost to patients at $35, while their health insurance provider may pay more in some cases. It's worth noting that many patients pay far less for their insulin, but critics often point out that insulin is cheap to manufacture especially by modern pharmaceutical standards. It reportedly costs a total of about $10 per vial to manufacture insulin.

Those critics have included activists and lawmakers, but recently the criticism reached a new tier when it was boosted by President Joe Biden. Last month, Biden gave a State of the Union address where he condemned drug companies for reporting rising profits amid this recession. He said: "Big Pharma has been unfairly charging people hundreds of dollars, $400 to $500 a month, making record profits."

Biden responded quickly to Lilly's announcement on Wednesday, reportedly saying it is "a big deal, and it's time for other manufacturers to follow." Still, critics have some issues with Lilly's plans. For one thing, the new pricing stucture will take effect slowly throughout the course of the year, and will apply only to the older insulin products. Meanwhile, many diabetes patients now rely on insulin products from two other drugmakers – Sanofi and Novo Nordisk.

Over 30 million Americans have diabetes, and over seven million need insulin as a regular part of their treatment. Without it, they could face kidney failure, amputation or even death. However, many reports over the last few years say that patients are "rationing" their insulin in an attempt to avoid the high prices. They put their health at risk in the process.

Activists and lawmakers celebrated Lilly's announcement on social media on Wednesday but many hoped it was just the first step in a much larger change. Patients should speak to their doctor about diabetes, health insurance coverage and drug costs on a case-by-case basis.