Cheaper insulin treatments on the way from Eli Lilly

Insulin costs in the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday it plans to sell two versions of insulin products at half their current U.S. list prices, eight months after it started selling a half-priced version of its widely-used Humalog injection.

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Lilly will sell new versions of Humalog Junior KwikPen and Humalog Mix75/25, which contains a mix of fast- and intermediate-acting insulin, at a list price of $265.20 for a pack of five KwikPens. They will be available at that price by mid-April, the company said.

Major insulin makers Lilly, Sanofi SA and Novo Nordisk have been pushing to make the life-sustaining diabetes medicine available for lower costs to counter heavy criticism from lawmakers and patients.

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People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin to control blood sugar levels, and it is also used by some with advanced Type 2 diabetes as well. But its cost in the United States nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, and stories have emerged of patients forced into risky rationing of the medicine due to its cost.

Lilly has called insulin a highly rebated product, meaning that list price does not reflect the actual cost. Drugmakers often argue they have to keep list prices high because of rebates or discounts they must pay to pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers to get products on their lists of covered drugs.

“Real change to our reimbursement system is needed. Insurance coverage should ensure no one with diabetes is forced to ration or skip doses for financial reasons,” Mike Mason, president of Lilly’s diabetes unit, said in a statement on Tuesday.

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Lilly in May started selling a half-priced version of Humalog called Insulin Lispro.

For the week of Dec. 30, around 22% of U.S. prescriptions for Humalog were filled with the company's half-priced version, according to data compiled by retail drug price tracker GoodRx from sources including pharmacies and insurers.

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Novo Nordisk said earlier this month it would offer free insulin to U.S. patients in immediate need, following its announcement in September that U.S. patients can buy three vials or two packs of pens of its analog insulins for $99.

In April, a U.S. congressional committee called on executives from Novo, Sanofi and Lilly to testify about the rising costs of insulin.

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(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Bill Berkrot)