As coronavirus worsens, Eli Lilly lowers insulin cost

Pharmaceutical company allowing anyone with commercial insurance or no insurance to purchase their monthly prescription of insulin for $35

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Insulin giant Eli Lilly on Tuesday offered a new $35 co-pay for insulin as millions of Americans struggle to pay their bills during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The initiative called the Lilly Insulin Value Program allows anyone with commercial insurance or no insurance to purchase their monthly prescription of insulin for $35, according to a press release.

"Too many people in the U.S. have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis, and we want to make sure no one goes without their Lilly insulin," Lilly Diabetes President Mike Mason said in a statement. "We've been providing affordability solutions for a long time, but more is needed to help people during this unprecedented period."

He added that even those "without insurance at all" are eligible for the program.

THE COST OF INSULIN CAN BE DEADLY

Patients can learn more about other insulin affordability options by calling the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center at 833-808-1234. The line is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., calls take about 10 minutes and require no paperwork, and callers who speak Spanish have the option of speaking to representatives in Spanish.

"It's critical that people with diabetes can reliably access insulin at a low, consistent out-of-pocket cost. Enabling a $35 per month insulin co-pay regardless of employment status will help many Americans in this difficult time," Aaron Kowalski, president and CEO of JDRF, and Thom Sher, CEO of Beyond Type 1, said in a statemet.

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More than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the list price of just one vial of insulin can be hundreds of dollars. Some who can't afford insulin have died rationing the medication, while others rely on donated samples.

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Insulin, which keeps blood sugar levels from getting too high or low for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, has tripled in cost between 2002 and 2013, according to the American Diabetes Association. And Americans pay 10 times more for insulin than Canadians do.

Congress blasted big pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, the top three insulin producers in the U.S., in December for not offering more accessibly priced versions of their diabetes medicine.

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Jeanette Settembre contributed to this report.