Alexis Stanley shows her insulin kit on January 17, 2020 in St.Paul, Minnesota. – It’s the … [+] wealthiest country on the planet but the sometimes staggering cost of health care means that Americans in need of everyday items such as insulin to treat diabetes resort to the black market or pharmacies across the border to source cheaper drugs. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance companies say they will join the effort by nonprofit drug maker Civica Rx to make and sell cheaper insulin for $30 per vial.
Civica, which grabbed headlines four years ago for its work with well-known U.S. hospitals and health systems to buy and develop generic drugs to avoid shortages, Thursday announced plans to manufacture and distribute “insulins that, once approved, will be available to people with diabetes at significantly lower prices than insulins currently on the market.”
Having the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans on board is an indication of the potential to shift coverage away from higher priced insulins to the generic version Civica plans to introduce. Insurers have ways to move the market when it comes to drug costs by shifting higher priced prescriptions on their preferred lists of drugs known as formularies to a different tier that would lead health plan enrollees to choose a less expensive generic.
The new insulin will be available sometime in 2024 “in vials and prefilled pens at no more than $30 per vial or $55 for a box of five pens,” Civica Rx said. The lower cost is much less than prices that can list for more than $100 and in some cases more than $500.
Earlier this week during his State of the Union speech, President Biden ripped into drug companies for charging high prices for insulin as part of his call for a cap of $35 per month for patients.
“Imagine what it’s like to look at your child who needs insulin and have no idea how you’re going to pay for it,” Biden said. “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it.”
More than 8 million Americans rely on insulin to live, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association said Thursday, but the insurers say “one in four insulin users report having to skip doses or take less than prescribed amounts due to the high cost of the medicine.”
“This is an important milestone in our continued partnership with Civica as we advance our shared goal of bringing lower-cost prescription medication directly to consumers,” said Kim Keck, chief executive officer of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which represents 34 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies that say they provide health coverage for one in three Americans.
“Access to affordable insulin can be the difference between life and death for diabetics – and we’re proud to be a part of Civica’s effort to ensure that millions of Americans have access to the medicine they need at a price they can afford,” Keck said. “When we come together, we can make health care more affordable.”