Sanofi takes action: Lantus insulin to see major price drop in U.S. market

USA — Sanofi has announced that it will reduce the list price of Lantus, its most widely prescribed insulin in the U.S., by 78% and cap monthly costs at US$35 for those with private insurance starting January 1st.

This move comes after similar announcements from Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk earlier this month. The three companies dominate the global insulin market.

Following the Inflation Reduction Act, which established a US$35 cap per insulin prescription per month for Medicare beneficiaries, insulin manufacturers have faced mounting pressure to lower prices for more people with diabetes.

Sanofi will also reduce the list price of its short-acting Apidra insulin by 70%. Additionally, uninsured individuals may be eligible for Sanofi’s Insulins Valyou Savings Program, which allows them to purchase one or multiple insulins for a 30-day supply for US$35.

Another program enables uninsured individuals to purchase the Soliqua injection for as little as $99 per box of pens, for up to two boxes of pens for a 30-day supply.

Eli Lilly recently cut the price of its most commonly used insulin by 70%, automatically capping out-of-pocket costs at US$35 for those with private insurance, and expanding its Insulin Value Program.

Novo Nordisk followed with price cuts of up to 75% for pre-filled insulin pens and vials but did not announce an expansion of cost-cutting programs.

Insulin price reduction helps insured and uninsured Americans. Democrats have reduced Medicare beneficiaries’ insulin costs to US$35/month under the Inflation Reduction Act, but Republicans blocked its extension to private insurance.

Biden called for capping insulin costs at US$35/month for all Americans in his State of the Union address and praised Eli Lilly’s move.

Market dynamics mean insulin will keep getting cheaper

Drug manufacturers also face changing market dynamics. Cost Plus Drugs, created by Mark Cuban, is testing a program to deliver lower-priced insulin directly to consumers, bypassing pharmacy benefit managers.

CivicaRX is also planning to manufacture and sell cheaper, interchangeable biologics for Lantus, Humalog, and Novolog. The nonprofit expects to seek FDA authorization for its insulin products next year.

These older insulin drugs face competition not only from each other but also from newer insulin products and weight loss drugs such as Ozempic.

Prior to recent price cuts, insulin cost was nearly US$300 a vial, but Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have announced significant price reductions for their most commonly prescribed insulin products.

High cost leads to rationing

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 16.5% of people in the US who use insulin report rationing it due to cost.

The average price of insulin has nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013, and between 2014 and 2019, the average retail price of insulin has risen 54%.

A 2022 study found that demand for insulin has grown significantly, as diabetes is the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world.

In the US alone, more than 37.3 million people have diabetes, and another 96 million have prediabetes.

Insulin is essential for people with diabetes because their bodies either do not produce enough or do not use it effectively.

Failure to manage sugar levels in the blood can lead to serious health problems such as kidney disease, heart problems, and blindness. Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2019.

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