News and insights brought to you by the International Diabetes Federation

Girl injecting insulin

Danish insulin manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, will provide insulin at a cheaper cost to the United States (US) market. Novo received much criticism over the high price of insulin, and after similar price-cutting moves by rivals Sanofi and Eli Lilly.

Currently, pressure on the insulin manufacturers, like Novo Nordisk,  has been building with US state-wide patient demonstrations on pricing and vigils for those who died rationing the over-priced injectable. National and local media outlets have reported on the young adults who have died too early, and on those who are struggling to afford their medication. Many people with diabetes in the US use Go Fund Me campaigns to raise sufficient funds to live.

In addition, US Congressional House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pricing plan calls for government negotiations on top drugs (like insulin) without generic or biosimilar competition, as well as an international price index, steep fines for noncompliance and more. This will be presented to the public imminently. Democratic Presidential Candidates, like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in an effort to show seriousness about drug pricing pre 2020 election, consistently declare how they will “take on the industry” which is “literally killing people”. President Trump said in June 2019 that the White House would write an executive order requiring Pharma to offer the US government the lowest prices in the world, but many are waiting for more clarity on Trump’s statement.

Amidst all this and according to recent reports, PhRMA, the industry’s top trade group, spent a record $27.5 million lobbying in 2018, and lobby spending has not slowed for 2019.


Novo Nordisk will offer a generic version of its most heavily prescribed insulin drug (Novolog) at a 50% discount compared to the current list price, the company said. The list price for one vial will be $144.68.

Novo Nordisk will also introduce a $99 cash card program available January 2020, which individuals can use to buy three vials or two packs of pens of Novo Nordisk’s analogue insulin for a flat cost of $99. The company stated that this amount of insulin would likely cover a month’s supply. It is not clear how the cash cards will be made available.

“While we will continue to do what we can to help address affordability challenges in the short-term, changes within the system are required to make sustainable and meaningful affordability a reality,” said Novo in a statement.

The cost of insulin for in the United States has risen 1200% since the 1990s, leading some patients to put their health at risk by rationing. Some patients have monthly insulin costs as high as $1300 per month. The US patent for insulin was sold in 1923 for just one dollar.

Diabetes on the rise

There are approximately 30 million people with diabetes in the US. Ninety percent live with type 2 diabetes, while the remainder have type 1 diabetes. Both types are on the rise. About 100 million people currently live with prediabetes in the US. Without prevention strategies, prediabetes can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

People who live with type 1 diabetes, an incurable autoimmune disease, require insulin to live. People with type 2 diabetes may eventually have the same requirement if they are unsuccessful treating their type 2 diabetes with exercise, a healthy diet and oral medication. When all strategies fail, people with type 2 diabetes must also rely on injecting insulin.  Without insulin, people with type 2 diabetes also then suffer complications from high blood glucose and early mortality –  just like those with type 1.

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