The program comes as Congress has singled out the cost of insulin in its scrutiny of drug prices. Patients with type 1 diabetes cannot survive without the hormone, and press reports have highlighted the plight of young adults who ration insulin after they reach age 26 and cannot stay on family insurance plans.
As Congress continues hearings on drug prices, Sanofi upped the ante in the current insulin discount battle today by announcing it would expand its Insulins Valyou Savings Program, offering people with diabetes a set monthly price of $99 for a supply that could come in insulin pens or vials or a combination.
The expansion of the program that began a year ago comes a month after competitor Eli Lilly offered a half-price version of its popular Humalog insulin and a week after Cigna and Express Scripts capped co-pays at $25 for commercial members.
Under the revised program, patients can pay $99 per month for up to 10 boxes of pens and/or 10 mL vials of insulin. The program started last year charged $99 for per 10 mL vial and $149 for a box of pens. Patients must have a valid prescription to obtain an insulin supply. The new pricing program takes effect in June.
The company’s statement said, “People exposed to high out-of-pocket prices at the pharmacy counter can participate in the Insulins Valyou Savings Program regardless of income level. This includes those who are paying high retail prices for their insulin and those who don’t qualify for other patient assistance programs.”
Sanofi’s announcement did not mention specific brands or whether the program would tie in with any commercial insurance program. It did say that current rules prohibit the program from being extended to patients in Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal and state insurance programs, although the company would support changes to allow these patients to participate.
“It is unacceptable to Sanofi that some people living with diabetes are struggling to pay for their insulin, so we have moved to act creatively and aggressively to help address affordability and access needs,” Michelle Carnahan, Head of North America Primary Care at Sanofi, said in the company’s announcement. “By giving those who require both long-acting and/or mealtime insulins or use more than one box of pens or one vial per month access to their insulins for one flat price, we aim to help limit the burden on the individuals who have high out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter.”
The announcement featured a statement from Kelly Close, co-founder of the diaTribe Foundation and president of Close Concerns: “Sanofi is taking this vital, transformational action to make its insulins more affordable through this program. The US diabetes community is in the middle of a crisis, because our dysfunctional healthcare system doesn’t allow equal, affordable access to insulin.
“As patient advocates at diaTribe, we have been strongly urging manufacturers, insurers, healthcare providers, pharmacy benefit managers—and the government—to work together to help alleviate this problem. Today, we recognize Sanofi for their outstanding leadership in order to make their insulins available at a better price for all, regardless of income or dosing needs,” she said.
The cost of insulin has been on the radar as committees in Congress have held hearings on the rising price of prescription drugs; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has singled out insulin pricing as an area he is determined to fix.
Insulin manufacturers are acting amid a wave of stories about young adults with type 1 diabetes who age off their parents’ insurance plans being unable to afford supplies. In some cases, rationing supplies has resulted in death.