Eli Lilly hawks new insulin pricing data amid mounting federal scrutiny

Eli Lilly & Co., under federal scrutiny over the cost it charges for a popular insulin treatment, released data on Sunday indicating the amount the company received for the drug declined 8.1 percent over the past five years.

The net price for Humalog – which factors in the rebates and other incentives Eli Lilly provides to customers – fell to $135 in 2018, down from $147 in 2014. While the net price has declined, the list price has risen 52 percent to $594, the report released on Sunday states. The last time the company raised the list price for Humalog was in 2017.

The Indianapolis-based company cited the increased negotiating power of middlemen pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs) as one reason for the decline, warning that “changes in insurance design and the trend toward greater consumer cost sharing” could mean more patients are forced to pay the full retail price.

The Trump administration is advancing a plan to eliminate the rebates that companies like Eli Lilly use to reduce the price that patients pay at the counter. But critics say the bulk of those savings are used by PBMs to pad profits, a claim the industry denies.

While the pending rule would only affect the Medicaid and Medicare programs, some lawmakers like Sen. Mike Braun, R-Indiana, are pushing legislation to extend it to the commercial market with the hope that drugmakers would then lower the list cost of treatments – a pledge that some top pharmaceutical firms have yet to embrace.

Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks previously said the rule would be a win for patients, particularly those “taking more highly rebated products, such as insulin.”

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The company’s report comes after Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the panel’s top Democrat, launched an investigation last month into the rising cost of insulin, asking firms like Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk for information on their pricing practices.

The lawmakers cited the 585 percent increase in the cost of Humalog from 2001 to 2015.


In response, Eli Lilly introduced a half-priced version called Insulin Lispro. The list price of one vial is $137.35, but what patients actually pay is likely less after rebates and other factors are accounted for.