Nonprofit Plans to Make Affordable Generic Insulin

Insulin prices in the United States have been ridiculously high and unaffordable for too long, but no one has done anything about it until now.

A nonprofit organization called Civica Inc. has announced that it plans to manufacture generic insulin at a steep price discount to current market prices for the first time ever. The generic insulin will cost no more than $30 each vial and no more that $55 for a box containing five pens.

Eli Lilly’s insulin costs $269 per vial, according to Mike Mage’s book Code Red: Inside America’S Medical Industrial Complex. Lilly introduced lispro in 2019, which was the generic equivalent of Humlog, priced at $137 per vials or $265 for five pens. Those prices dropped this past year to $82.40 for individual vials and to $159.10 for a pack of five pen refills.

Other insulin makers with similar high prices include Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Merck Sharp & Dohme 

Assuming FDA approval, Civica expects to begin selling its first insulin product (Lantus) by 2024. Insulin drugs will be manufactured at Civica’ s 140,000-square foot manufacturing facility being built in Petersburg, Virginia. Later, there will be other types of insulin, including lispro (the NovoLog equivalent) and aspart (the Humalog equivalent).

@dailyshoot: 2010/03/20: Liquids can be still and reflective or in motion and chaotic. Make a photograph of something liquid today. #ds125
Besides my daily habit of photography, the other regular part of every day is taking insulin. I’ve been on the stuff since they found out on 1970 that my pancreas was not doing the job.
At least it is not daily needles (or multiple needles) since 2006 when I started unsing an inulin pump– now I have to change it’s supply out every 3 days, which happened this morning.
Yeah, this liquid is important to me, even more so than beer.

Civica was founded by health systems and foundations in 2018 as a kind of health insurance company. It’s a company that manufactures or subcontracted for generic pharmaceuticals that hospitals need. The money to run Civica Rx, the company formed to carry out this project, came from health systems, charities, and private donors.

The first governing members include seven health systems — Catholic Healthcare Initiatives (now Common Spirit), HCA Healthcare, Inc., Intermountain Healthcare, Inc., Mayo Clinic, Inc., Providence Health & Services, Inc., and Trinity Health — and two charities: the Laura and Johns Arnold Foundation and the Gary and Mary Weston Foundation. Kaiser Permanente, Memorial Hermann, and Civica joined the board.

To get started, Civica Rx contracted with companies that already had FDA licenses to manufacture generic drugs. So far, Civiva Rx has provided more than $50 million worth of generic drugs to hospitals representing more than 30 percent of U.S. healthcare capacity. It also provides the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD), which has provided 11 essential medications needed for treating COVID-19 patients

Recently, Civica has formed CivicaScript to help reduce the cost of generic medications in retail pharmacies. Among CivicaScript’s founding members are the BlueCrossBlueShieldAssociation (BCBSA), eighteen independent Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans, and Anthem Insurance. Other groups involved in this project include foundations and some healthcare systems, such as InterMountain, Kaiser Permanente (KP), Providence, and Trinity.

More than 8 million Americans rely upon insulin to live, but most cannot afford to take the amount of insulin they need because of the traditionally high and prohibitive costs of insulin. “We know that to really solve the insulin cost and access issues so many Americans face, it needs a process – from manufacturing to setting a clear price – that ultimately lowers the cost for people living with diabetes.’’

How to Pay Less for Insulin?

Dr. Andrew Ordon is a nationally recognized expert on type 2 diabetes management. He received his BA degree in psychology from Rutgers University. In addition to clinical work he completed residencies in internal medicine and endocrinology. Dr. Ordon then went on to complete fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Duke University Medical Center. He currently practices at the Diabetes Institute of New Jersey in Somerset, NJ.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Dr. Ordon explained how Civica Rx is going to make affordable insulin available to everyone who needs it.

“There are three ways we can lower the cost of insulin,” said Dr. Ordon. “First, we can find new sources of supply. Second, we can develop new technologies to improve the way insulin works. Third, we can create new business models that allow us to bring down the prices.”

How Did Insulin Get So Expensive?

According to Dr. Ordon, there were several reasons why insulin became so expensive. First, the pharmaceutical industry was able to block competition by patenting the active ingredients in insulin. This meant that only one company could produce insulin. The second reason is that the government allowed drug manufacturers to charge whatever they wanted for their products. As a result, the average price of insulin increased dramatically over time. Finally, the government did not require insulin manufacturers to disclose what they paid for raw materials or other expenses.

Civica Rx will begin by developing a plan to increase the number of suppliers of insulin. They will also look into improving the technology used to produce insulin. And finally, Civica Rx will explore new business models that might be able to decrease the price of insulin.

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