Nonprofit company vows to make generic insulin and sell it for $1 a day

This drug helps stave off a variety of medical problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Something 1.6 million Americans are living with type 1 Diabetes, a condition in which people don’t produce insulin, depends on it for survival. So do millions more people Type 2 diabetes– a condition in which the body does not produce enough insulin.

But it’s estimated that one in four Americans who need it has so much trouble affording it life-saving drugs that they are skimping on doses because insulin prices have been skyrocketing for years. For example, the full costs – without insurance cover – are around one month a commonly used type of insulin called glargine has almost tripled from $99 in 2010 $284 in 2022.

The exact amount Americans pay for insulin varies widely. depending on your insurance coverage and which version of the medications that are prescribed for them.

Civica Rxa non-profit organization manufactures generic drugs, trying to solve this problem. It plans to produce generic insulin for no more than $30 for a month of the drug at a plant being built in Petersburg, Virginia. Eventually, the drugmaker intends to sell all three of the most popular types of insulin, starting with glargine in 2024.

Based on mine research relating to the pharmaceutical industry and my work as a physician treating patients with diabetes, I believe this effort, announced in March 2022, can greatly improve access to insulin for hundreds of thousands of people who need it but cannot currently afford it.

Also read: US groups are making their own drugs to combat high drug prices and shortages

The conversation

Generic insulin competition is limited

Americans go for robust Competition from cheap generics make pharmaceutical products more affordable. This system has historically been more successful with blockbuster drugs like atorvastatin – a cholesterol-controlling drug better known among the Brand name Lipitor– and Azithromycin – an antibiotic sold under the brand Brand name Zithromax.

Unfortunately, this system has failed to stem the rise in insulin prices, which it has far higher in the United States than in other countries.

One reason for this has to do with the fact that insulin a biological drug, meaning it is produced by living organisms using DNA technology. Biologic drugs are more difficult to manufacture and are regulated differently by the Food and Drug Administration than traditional drugs.

see reasons for optimism

I’m excited about this initiative because it promises to increase access for everyone who needs insulin in the US, regardless of insurance status or where they buy medication.

One reason is that Civica Rx is a not-for-profit organization that will be better placed than private drugmakers to put the interests of those who pay for insulin — patients and health insurers — ahead of investors.

Another reason is the pricing strategy. Civica Rx plans to only charge about 20% of list prices for branded insulin products. Walmart WMT,
and some other big box retailers already sell insulin at a discount, but their prices are still higher than what the nonprofit wants to charge.

And insights from my own research suggests that intellectual property protection is unlikely to be a significant impediment to Civica’s efforts.

I’m optimistic too because Support from major insurers as anthem ANTM,
and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for these efforts. It is reassuring that in the leadership of Civica Rx there are many people with decades of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and in health policy.

But I see some reasons to be less optimistic.

First, there have been previous attempts to manufacture generic insulin in the US None succeeded.

Another possibility is that manufacturers of branded insulin could try to pressure doctors to prescribe it newer patent-protected versions of insulin, which would be harder for Civica Rx to market as a generic — at least initially.

Success is far from guaranteed as the established players all have a strong financial stake in seeing Civica’s efforts fail.

The legislature acts

Several state legislators have also tried to solve this problem. Some have passed laws Require price transparency for medicines and means of guarantee provided Emergency access to insulin.

But to date, these have different answers could not lower the prices of branded insulin productsalthough I think it’s possible that prices would have risen faster without them.

Congress is also reacting.

Four weeks after Civica Rx announced its plans to produce insulin well below current prices, the US House of Representatives has announced passed legislation that would cap insulin co-payments at $35 for insured patients. This measure was also in President Joe Bidens stalled Build Back Better Spending Plan.

The House bill would leave out many patients — most of them especially the uninsured. But this measure would also mark a positive step must the Senate follow.

People living with insulin-dependent diabetes have long waited for someone to do something to make it more affordable. It looks like that time may finally come.

Jin Luo is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences. His research focuses on prescription drug use, pricing, and policy, particularly for drugs used to treat chronic diseases such as diabetes.

This comment was originally published by The Conversation — Nonprofit drugmaker Civica Rx is targeting the high insulin prices that are hurting people with diabetes

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