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Consumers favor laws to limit costs of insulin

The trend: Pressure is growing on drug makers to curb the cost of insulin to diabetes patients.

  • On March 1, President Biden praised Eli Lilly for its $35 cap on patients’ out-of-pocket cost for its insulin products.
  • On March 9, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, proposed legislation to limit the list price of insulin to $20 per vial.
  • Two weeks later, on March 14, Novo Nordisk, one of the largest global insulin makers, announced it would cut US list prices by up to 75%.
  • French drugmaker Sanofi, another major insulin seller, has not announced price changes currently.

How we got here: Insulin prices in the US have skyrocketed more than 600% over the last 20 years, per a September 2022 NPR report.

  • In the case of Novo’s NovoLog, a five-pack of injection pens are listed at $559, and a vial is $298.
  • After the cost cuts take effect in January 2024, prices would drop to $140 for the pens and $72 for the vial, per the Wall Street Journal.

Patients aren’t the only ones concerned about the cost of diabetes treatment. US employers pay approximately $245 billion each year to cover treatment and drugs for diabetic employees, per a study by Nomi Health.

  • Of that, $175 billion annually goes to direct medical and pharmacy costs.
  • $70 billion is the indirect cost to employers from employee absenteeism, reduced productivity, and diabetes-related disability, the study showed.

The pressure heats up: Healthcare is already a hot topic in 2023, as the US presidential campaigns get under way. Consumers are paying attention.

  • 53% of US adults polled by The Economist and YouGov in early March said either they or someone they know uses insulin.
  • 73% either strongly or somewhat support laws that set limits on how much companies can charge for insulin (53% strongly and 20% somewhat).

Our take: Drug prices are a major concern for Americans, and they’re ready for the government to help.

  • 37% of respondents in the Economist/YouGov poll said they hadn’t filled a prescription because they couldn’t afford it.
  • Total prescription drug spending in the US will reach $620.3 billion in 2023, we estimate, and will rise to $730.5 billion in 2026.
  • Consumers will spend $224 per person (including children) this year, and we project that cost will rise to $279 per person in 2026.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.