Another one! Sanofi joins growing list of insulin manufacturers to cap cost of life-saving drug

French pharma giant Sanofi has become the latest company to slash how much it will charge Americans for insulin.

It said Thursday the cost of its popular Lantus 100 units/ml prefilled vials are to be cut from $438.07 to $96. The price of its 10ml vials will also be dropped from $292.07 to $64.

The French drugmaker said that no American would need to pay out-of-pocket costs above $35 for its insulin, the company said, including those who are not insured. The remaining costs will be covered by insurance or through coupons.

Sanofi is the third company to announce price cuts of up to 78 percent in the wake of Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — who have enacted similar reductions that could save Americans thousands of dollars a year.

The new prices will come into force on January 1. The change will allow Sanofi to avoid paying rebates to Medicaid, as will be required starting next year under new drug pricing regulations.

Sanofi has announced it will slash the price of its insulin to ensure consumers are not paying more than $35 out-of-pocket. This includes Lantus (pictured), responsible for about 40 percent of longer-lasting insulin sales in the US, and fast-acting Apidra

Sanofi did release an unbranded version of Lantus in June 2022 that was 60 percent cheaper than the branded version. But it said that the US healthcare system failed to take advantage

Sanofi did release an unbranded version of Lantus in June 2022 that was 60 percent cheaper than the branded version. But it said that the US healthcare system failed to take advantage

More than 8million Americans use insulin shots to manage their diabetes. Around one in ten are diabetic.

Sanofi said it would also slash the price of its fast-acting Apidra insulin by 70 percent.

The company controls about 40 percent of the long-acting insulin market — with Lantus — and four percent of the rapid-acting market.

The French drugmaker did release an unbranded version of Lantus in June 2022 that was 60 percent cheaper than the alternative but said that the US healthcare system failed to take advantage.

Its 100unit/ml Lantus insulin pens are currently on sale in France for around 41.27 euros ($43.85), according to goodmed.

Olivier Bogillot, the head of US general medicines at the drug maker, said: ‘Sanofi believes that no one should struggle to pay for their insulin and we are proud of our continued actions to improve access and affordability for millions of patients for many years.

‘We launched our unbranded biologic for Lantus at 60 percent less than the Lantus list price in June 2022 but, despite this pioneering low-price approach, the health system was unable to take advantage of it due to its inherent structural challenges.

‘We are pleased to see others join our efforts to help patients as we now accelerate the transformation of the US insulin market.’ 

Most Americans with insurance do not regularly pay the list price for insulin, but they may have an insurance co-pay based on the drug’s list price or pay full price up to a certain amount of money spent.

Uninsured people often have to pay the full list price, forcing many patients to ration or skip doses. 

Around 30 million Americans are uninsured, making up nearly 10 percent of the population. 

The companies also offer savings programs outside of insurance.

The price cuts will allow Sanofi, Novo and Lilly, which combined control about 90 percent of the US insulin market, to avoid paying substantial rebates to the US government Medicaid program in 2024. 

‘After the price drop, Sanofi will actually make money off Lantus in Medicaid, when at current prices, it would have had to pay Medicaid,’ said Dr. Inmaculada Hernandez, a drug pricing expert at the University of California, San Diego

Eli Lilly has said it will cut the price of its two most popular shots — Humalog and Humulin — in October. 

Novo will slash the price of its insulin shots — including Levemir, Novolin, NovoLog and NovoLog Mix70/30 — in January.

Insulin prices have been a major stumbling block in recent years, with the rocketing price of the drug putting many American families into a bind.

An analysis in 2022 found that prices rose 600 percent from 2002 to 2022.

Most diabetics require two to three vials of insulin per month, though some will need more.

With an average list price of about $100 per vial, the cost of managing blood sugar could be prohibitive, forcing many people to turn to a black market or ration the essential medicine with disastrous consequences.

The US is a global outlier regarding money spent on the drug, which costs between $2.28 and $3.42 to produce.

In the UK, a vial costs about $7.50, while in Canada, it costs $12 per vial.

What is type 2 diabetes? 

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.

More than 4million people in the UK, and 30million in the US, are thought to have some form of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is usually caused by obesity — and the condition is reversible.

The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone which controls the absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.

Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.

Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.

Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.

It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.

Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.

The price disparity has led to a growing number of desperate Americans turning to the neighbor to the north, sometimes by the busload, to obtain it.

This is because, unlike the US, the Canadian government has imposed price controls on the pharmaceutical industry.

The federal government in January started applying a $35 cap on monthly out-of-pocket costs to patients with coverage through its Medicare program for people age 65 and older or those with disabilities or illnesses.

As part of the American Rescue Plan, a 2021 law signed by President Joe Biden, drug companies will now be forced to pay more in rebates if they want their drug covered by Medicaid.

Under current rules, a company must rebate part of the payments they receive from the service back to state governments.

The sharp rises of insulin costs in recent decades have made it so drugmakers quickly hit the rebate cap for these drugs — and are allowed to keep the rest as profit.

The 2021 law removed these caps, forcing pharmaceutical companies to pay significantly higher rebates.

Dropping the price of the drugs helps the firms shrink how much they would be forced to pay back into Medicare and ends up not affecting their bottom line much once the changes go into effect.

These changes are set to go into effect at the start of next year, making the moves by Eli Lilly, Novo and Sanofi conveniently timed.

List prices are what a drugmaker initially sets for a product and what people who have no insurance or plans with high deductibles are sometimes stuck paying.

Patient advocates have long called for insulin price cuts to help uninsured people who would not be affected by price caps tied to insurance coverage.

They have noted that high insulin prices force many people to ration doses, which can harm their health.

Insulin is made by the pancreas and used by the body to convert food into energy. People who have diabetes don’t produce enough insulin or their bodies are desensitized to the hormone.

Those with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to survive.