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Sanofi joins other diabetes drugmakers in cutting insulin prices

Dive Brief:

  • Sanofi said Thursday it will cut the prices for its insulin products by as much as 78%, following two of its rivals who have announced similar cuts amid persistent scrutiny of the medicines’ costs.

 

  • The French pharmaceutical company said it would lower the list price of its long-acting insulin Lantus by 78%, and of its rapid-acting insulin Apridra by 70%, starting in January 2024. Sanofi will also cap insured patients’ monthly costs for Lantus at $35.

 

  • Sanofi is the last of the three major insulin makers in the U.S. to pledge price cuts. Eli Lilly announced price reductions of up to 70%earlier this month, and Novo Nordisk followed with cuts of up to 75% earlier this week. All of the reductions are set to take effect ahead of a policy change that will allow Medicaid to collect higher rebates for insulin starting in 2024.

Dive Insight:

Insulin drugs have long drawn criticism for their high prices, and the pressure has only intensified with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year that set a $35 monthly limit for Medicare out-of-pocket costs for seniors’ insulin.

Notably, Lilly, Novo and Sanofi stand to lose money from maintaining high list prices due to a law passed in 2021 that eliminated a cap on certain rebates paid to Medicaid. Designed to penalize drugmakers for hiking prices faster than inflation, the rebates were previously capped at 100% of the drug’s price. Starting next year, with that cap removed, drugmakers could potentially owe money to Medicaid for each prescription of their product.

According to analyses cited by the Kaiser Family Foundation, insulin drugs had accounted for a large portion of those “lost” rebates.

For Lilly and Novo, fast sales growth of other diabetes drugs has lessened the importance of their insulin products to their bottom line. In particular, they are focusing on a class of diabetes medicines that have been shown to have potent weight loss effects and that some analysts have estimated could eventually earn $50 billion per year.

Lilly recently won approval for Mounjaro, a dual-acting GLP-1 and GIP agonist that stimulates the body to produce insulin, for treating diabetes last year and could gain regulators’ OK to expand its use in treating obesity later this year. Novo’s Ozempic belongs to the GLP-1 drug class and is sold as Wegovy for treating obesity.

Sanofi, meanwhile, has shifted its business focus from Type 2 diabetes drugmaking. Already, it faces heavy competition from biosimilar copycats of Lantus and last June said it would launch a nonbranded version of Lantus. At the time, it also capped monthly costs of its insulin for people without insurance at $35.