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Sanofi cuts insulin cost to $35, third major drug company to do so

A third drug company is cutting the price of insulin to $35, following competitors Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk in heeding pressure from the Biden administration. File Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE
1 of 3 | A third drug company is cutting the price of insulin to $35, following competitors Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk in heeding pressure from the Biden administration. File Photo by Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE

March 16 (UPI) -- A third drug company is cutting the price of insulin to $35, following competitors Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk in heeding pressure from the Biden administration.

Sanofi's Lantus insulin injection will see its price cut by 78%, the company announced Thursday. The out-of-pocket cost for all patients will be $35 for a monthly supply. It is also slashing the price of its short-acting insulin injection Apidra by 70%.

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Sanofi, along with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, produce 90% of the world's insulin supply.

"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," Olivier Bogillot, Sanofi's head of U.S. general medicines, said in a statement.

"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."

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"We are pleased to see others join our efforts to help patients as we now accelerate the transformation of the U.S. insulin market," Bogillot continued. "Our decision to cut the list price of our lead insulin needs to be coupled with broader change to the overall system to actually drive savings for patients at the pharmacy counter."

The wave of price cuts to insulin by the three biggest producers follows the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which caps insulin costs at $35 per month for people with Medicare. Since announcing the act, President Joe Biden has continued to pressure drug companies to bring down their prices.

"Sanofi is the latest company to recognize that charging hundreds of dollars for insulin that costs $10 to produce is just wrong, especially when the lives of so many children, parents and grandparents depend on it," Biden said Thursday night in a statement, while calling on Congress to pass legislation to put a cap on insulin of $35 a month for all Americans and eliminate unfair and costly so-called junk fees on other medications.

The president threatened that if Congress won't work with him, he will "continue to speak out and act on my own, just as I have to give millions of families life-changing breathing room on insulin costs."

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The move is expected to have wide-ranging effects as some 7.4 million Americans with diabetes use some form of insulin, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people who don't.

According to the CDC, medical costs and lost work and wages for people with diagnosed diabetes is about $327 billion a year.

The cost of medication in the United States has been a point of contention over the years, with Insulin being the poster child as it is relatively inexpensive to produce, life-saving and has experienced a dramatic increase in costs. A report published in The Lancet in September states that between 2007 and 2018, the cost of some insulin products jumped 200%.

These steep costs have been blamed for some 1.3 million Americans to ration their insulin supply, according to a recent report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"We are encouraged that all of the major manufacturers have taken steps to make insulin more affordable," American Diabetes Association Chief Advocacy Office Lisa Murdock said Thursday in a statement, "but the fight is not over."

"We will continue advocating for efforts in Congress and states across the country to ensure insulin is affordable to everyone with diabetes who relies on it to survive."

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Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., introduced a bill last week to take Biden's plan even further, limiting the cost of insulin to $20 per vial.

"There is no reason why Americans should pay the highest prices in the world for insulin -- in some cases, 10 times as much as people in other countries," Sanders said in a statement.

The price cut by Sanofi was announced two days after Novo Nordisk said it would slash its insulin prices and more than two weeks after Eli Lilly became the first major pharmaceutical this month to voluntarily drop its prices.

"1.5 million seniors would have saved $500 per year on the cost of insulin in 2020 had the Inflation Reduction Act been in effect then," the White House tweeted Thursday. "President Biden's budget calls to extend the $35 monthly cap on insulin to all Americans to further lower costs."

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