Delaware Public Media

Some Delawareans could see savings from new generic insulin

Mar 4, 2019

Eli Lilly and Company announced Monday it plans to release a new, cheaper, generic insulin—which could be an option for some of the more than 85,400 Delaware adults with diabetes.

The global pharmaceutical company’s new generic “Insulin Lispro” will be half the list price of Humalog, Eli Lilly’s name-brand insulin of the same molecule. A single vial of Insulin Lispro will cost $137.35, and the list price for a five-pack of KwikPens will be $265.20, according to the company.

Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) data from 2017 shows 11.3 percent of adults in the First State have been diagnosed with diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Statistics, an estimated 12.2 percent of all U.S. adults had diabetes, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, as of 2015.

American Diabetes Association officials said in a statement Monday that Eli Lilly’s new “authorized generic” will help uninsured people purchase insulin.

Nina Pletcher, president of the Delaware Diabetes Coalition, adds that people caught in the Medicare coverage gap or those who have insurance but have not met their deductible might also consider the product.

But she notes some who pay out-of-pocket for insulin may still opt for cheaper, synthetic generics available at Walmart over more expensive “biosimilar” insulins, like Eli Lilly’s anticipated generic.

“I mean, if people really are serious about wanting to preserve their quality of life, they’re going to do what you ask them to do. It’s just that they might struggle with the path to affording it," said Pletcher. "Do I do Walmart, do I do biosimilar, or do I do brand?”

Pletcher adds that the impact of the Eli Lilly’s “authorized generic” release is uncertain.  “You know, it's going to depend on how the market receives this and the willingness of the providers to consider using it,” she said.

Pletcher says a patient’s access to a particular brand of insulin depends on whether their doctor prescribes it— and whether it is preferred by their insurance company. She notes some brands work better for different people.

DPH's Emergency Medical Diabetes Fund helps certain individuals afford diabetes treatments if they do not have insurance that will cover them. According to a DPH spokesperson, the fund provided 168 funding requests, which covered a combination of supplies and medications, last calendar year.