Novo Nordisk to launch biosimilar insulin in the US Posted 04/10/2019

Novo Nordisk has announced plans to launch biosimilar versions of its NovoLog and NovoLog Mix insulin products in the US in January 2020.

Novo Nordisk will join rival insulin providers Sanofi and Eli Lilly in cutting prices amid mounting criticism over the high cost of insulin. The Danish drugmaker will offer authorized biosimilar versions of NovoLog and NovoLog Mix at a 50% discount compared to the current list price of the brand-name versions. It will also launch a cash card programme, which will offer people with diabetes (with or without insurance) up to three vials or two packets of pens of any combination of its analogue insulin products for a flat cost of US$99, which should cover most patients’ monthly insulin needs.

Sanofi announced in April 2019 that it would reduce insulin costs for uninsured people to US$99 per month, and Eli Lilly launched an authorized biosimilar at half the price of its insulin lispro product, Humalog, the following month [1]. These price-cutting measures from the three largest insulin providers come after the average wholesale price of four of the most commonly used insulins increased over three-fold between 2007 and 2017. In Senate hearings earlier in 2019, executives from Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly denied responsibility for the rises in insulin prices. They blamed the complex health insurance system in the US and pharmacy benefit managers, pointing to declines in the realized price of their products despite significant increases in list prices.

Reports of many patients struggling to afford insulin have prompted the US government to look into ways to reduce costs, including incentivizing reductions in list prices [2]. The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently designated insulin as a preventative medicine. This designation exempts insulin from the deductible phase of some health plans, so that patients will never pay full list price for their insulin.

Doug Langa, Executive Vice President, North America Operations and President of Novo Nordisk, said in a statement ‘People with diabetes need more affordable options and we are going to continue doing what we can now while also working with other healthcare stakeholders on longer-term system reform. For instance, we support the recent IRS ruling that classifies diabetes medications as preventative care. We believe this has the potential to help a significant number of people with diabetes from an affordability perspective’.

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References
1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Eli Lilly launches lower prices insulin lispro [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2019 Oct 4]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Biosimilars/General/Eli-Lilly-launches-lower-priced-insulin-lispro
2. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Bill introduced in US to cut insulin prices [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2019 Oct 4]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Policies-Legislation/Bill-introduced-in-US-to-cut-insulin-prices
3.GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. Bill introduced in US to cut insulin prices [www.gabionline.net]. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2019 Oct 4]. Available from: www.gabionline.net/Policies-Legislation/Bill-introduced-in-US-to-cut-insulin-prices

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