Eli Lilly is planning to offer a generic version of its blockbuster insulin product that will cost patients approximately half as much.
The Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant said Monday that the authorized generic, called Insulin Lispro, is the same molecule as its fast-acting insulin Humalog, which carries a list price of approximately $275 per vial. Provided in both vials and injectable pens, the generic Lilly (NYSE: LLY) insulin will carry a $137.35 list price for a vial; $265.20 for a pack of five KwikPens.
Lilly’s announcement comes nearly a week after executives from eight pharmaceutical companies appeared before the Senate’s finance committee to discuss the prices of prescription drugs. Lilly executives did not participate in the hearing. Days prior to the hearing, Senate leaders announced a bipartisan investigation into the rising cost of insulin, noting that Humalog’s price increased from $35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015—a 585 percent increase. Here is the letter that the finance committee’s leaders sent to Lilly CEO David Ricks.
Humalog is Lilly’s second-highest revenue generator, accounting for more than $2.9 billion in global sales last year. Lilly says the last price increase for the drug was in May 2017. But the drug’s patents have expired in most major pharmaceutical markets; Insulin Lispro’s introduction comes as generic competition to Humalog emerges. In late 2017, the FDA approved a Humalog biosimiliar, or copy, of the injectable drug. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi (NYSE: SNY) launched that version of Humalog, which it calls Admelog, last April.
There’s precedent for pharma companies introducing generic versions of their own biological drugs. Last year, Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) announced authorized generics for two of its top three hepatitis C therapies, priced at discounts of as much as 75 percent compared to the company’s branded therapies. That move followed competition from other hepatitis C therapies that eroded Gilead’s market share.
Lilly says vials and pens containing its lower-priced insulin have already been manufactured and the company is working with its supply chain partners to make them available to pharmacies. The drug will be provided through ImClone Systems, a Lilly subsidiary. The company also says that Humalog will remain available for those who want to continue receiving it through their current insurance plans. This gives insurers time to renegotiate contracts and adjust to the new insulin option.