Eli Lilly CEO says drugmaker will maintain trying to lower insulin prices

This arranged photo at a Princeton, Illinois pharmacy shows a logo of Eli Lilly & Co. on a box of insulin medication.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly, said he welcomed the new competition from Walmart, even as the retailer undercuts the drugmaker’s prices for fast-acting insulin.

Walmart announced Tuesday that it would start selling a cheaper version of the notoriously expensive diabetes drug starting this week.

“All efforts to break through that and provide better value to patients are mine,” Ricks said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday.

With Novo Nordisk, Walmart has developed the cheaper version of the analog insulin. The fast-acting insulin costs about $ 73 for a vial or about $ 86 for a pack of pre-filled insulin pens. It will be available exclusively at Walmart and Sam’s Club for adults and children by prescription.

Insulin has become a focal point in the legislature’s debate about rising drug prices – especially since it’s a 100-year-old drug and can save lives for millions of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Eli Lilly is among the companies that have been pushed for their prices by politicians on both sides of the aisle, including former President Donald Trump.

Ricks said the company’s executives “welcome anyone who wants to bring the price of insulin down” – including the wholesaler.

“We are always looking at new solutions ourselves, this is an interesting development and we will look at other options,” he said. “If we can get another patient with cheaper insulin, we’ll try that.”

Ricks said Eli Lilly continues to find ways to cut costs for people with diabetes. He pointed to two related efforts: the introduction of a generic half-price version of insulin called insulin lispro in early 2019 and capping the cost of insulin at $ 35 a month, which began when many Americans were struggling with finances during the corona pandemic.

These moves were in part in response to severe criticism from lawmakers and a subpoena from New York State.

The generic version of Eli Lilly costs almost double that of Walmart at $ 137.35 per vial.

In the past 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 34.2 million adults in the United States have the disease, which is the seventh leading cause of death in the country, according to the CDC.

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