Novo Nordisk announces half-price, authorized generic insulins
Novo Nordisk announced that it will offer “authorized generic” versions of its insulin aspart and insulin aspart mix beginning in January 2020, with the follow-on brands priced 50% lower than the current list price of its branded versions of the drugs, according to an industry press release.
Insulin aspart (NovoLog) and insulin aspart mix (NovoLog Mix), the company’s most widely prescribed insulins, will be available from the newly established Novo Nordisk affiliate Novo Nordisk Pharma Inc, according to the release. List prices will be $144.68 for a 10 mL vial of insulin aspart, $268.73 for a box of five insulin aspart pens, $150.06 for a 10 mL vial of insulin aspart mix and $279.41 for a box of five pens of insulin aspart mix. Branded insulin aspart and insulin aspart mix will still be available from Novo Nordisk for those who wish to use it, according to the company.
"People with diabetes need more affordable options, and we are going to continue doing what we can now while also working with other health care stakeholders on longer-term system reform,” Doug Langa, executive vice president, North America Operations and president of Novo Nordisk Inc., said in the release. “For instance, we support the recent IRS ruling that classifies diabetes medications as preventive care. We believe this has the potential to help a significant number of people with diabetes from an affordability perspective.”
Less expensive insulin
The announcement makes Novo Nordisk the second manufacturer to offer authorized generic insulins, as patient advocacy groups, professional societies and government officials have increasingly scrutinized the high price of insulin. In March, Eli Lilly announced it would introduce an authorized generic version of insulin lispro injection in the United States, similarly promising a list price that is 50% lower than the current Humalog list price, according to a press release from the company. The lower-priced version, now available in vials and pens, is called “insulin lispro” and is the same molecule as Humalog, according to Lilly. The list price of a single vial is $137.35 and the list price of a five-pack of KwikPens is $265.20. Lilly’s generic insulin is available as an authorized generic through a Lilly subsidiary, ImClone Systems.
Sanofi announced in May that it would expand its “Insulins Valyou Savings Program.” Under the enhanced discounts, which went into effect June 8, uninsured patients pay $99 to access their Sanofi insulins (Lantus, Toujeo, Admelog and Apidra), with a valid prescription, for up to 10 boxes of pens and/or 10 mL vials per month. The prior program offered one set price for each 10 mL vial ($99) or box of pens ($149).
Expanding access programs
In the release announcing the authorized generics, Novo Nordisk said it will also offer a $99 cash card program for its analogue insulins. The program will allow people with diabetes to purchase up to three vials or two packs of FlexPen/FlexTouch pens of any combination (3,000-3,600 units total, depending on brands) for a flat cost of $99.
“While we will continue to do what we can to help address affordability challenges in the short-term, changes within the system are required to make sustainable and meaningful affordability a reality,” the company stated in the release. “What a patient pays for medicine is influenced by insurance benefit design and pricing. While Novo Nordisk has acknowledged the role of list price, more needs to be done to improve how insurance benefits cover vital medicines, especially through high-deductible health plans. Those plans push list prices to patients to fulfill a deductible, which sometimes means paying thousands of dollars.”
In addition to a diabetes patient assistance program and co-pay assistance programs, the company has also partnered with Walmart since 2000 to offer human insulin for approximately $25 a vial. In 2017, Novo Nordisk partnered with CVS Health and ESI to expand the $25 human insulin offering to thousands more pharmacies nationwide.
"We also want to do more to make people aware of all the programs and options across Novo Nordisk companies that may benefit them and are continuously working to ensure they are easier to access and navigate,” Langa said in the release. “We know that people have different challenges depending on their situation and encourage them to contact us to learn how we may be able to help.” – by Regina Schaffer
Disclosures: Langa is executive vice president, North America Operations and president of Novo Nordisk Inc.