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New, low-price insulin? There’s a catch

diabetes costs continue to skyrocketThe skyrocketing price of insulin has been making big headlines for a while. Those with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, have been especially hard hit. Some of you have even been forced to choose between buying life-saving medication and paying for food and other needed expenses.

Eli Lilly, maker of the fast-acting insulin drug Humalog, recently announced it will soon introduce a generic version of the drug, Lispro, with a list price that’s half the cost of Humalog. Humalog’s current list price:  $275 a vial.

Great news, right?

Unfortunately, the devil’s in the details. Axios tracked down a spokesperson from Eli Lilly who confirmed that Lispro would actually be “comparable” in price to the more costly Humalog after accounting for rebates and discounts. The spokesperson refused to comment on what those rebates might be, and there is no guarantee that health insurers or pharmacies will cover the new drug.

This means it will not fundamentally change what consumers pay for this or other versions of insulin. In fact, we are all likely to pay. Drug companies that release their own authorized generics are simply competing with themselves, which does little to lower our nation’s rising health care costs.

While Lilly’s generic insulin may help those without insurance and those with high deductibles and coinsurance, at $140 per vial, Lispro will still cost seven times more than the same insulin in other developed countries.

Have you been lucky enough to access a new, generic drug at a lower price? Share your insights with Voices for Affordable Health.