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Here's some good news for the 56,000 people in Utah and 11.5 million in the U.S. who take insulin to control their diabetes.
Starting in 2024, insulin is going to be up to 80 percent less expensive. The average retail cost of a vial of insulin is going to drop to no more than $30.
Here's how it will happen
Civica RX, a Utah-based nonprofit drug manufacturer that makes low-cost generic medications for hospitals across the nation, will start to produce retail medications, beginning with insulin.
Civica will manufacture three types of insulin, which comprise about 80 percent of insulin prescriptions in the United States. The three types, which correspond to Lantus, Humalog, and Novolog, will be offered in vials and disposable pens.
Civica insulin will be available in retail and online pharmacies that agree to charge no more than Civica's recommended price, which will be $30 or less per vial and $55 or less for five insulin pens.
Intermountain Healthcare helped develop and launch Civica in 2018 to improve the availability and affordability of generic medications routinely used in U.S. hospitals, with a focus on preventing chronic drug shortages and the price spikes that often accompany them. Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, its members now include 1,500 hospitals nationwide, and its medications have been used by 27 million patients. Since its founding, the Civica movement has produced 60 medicines, including some used to fight COVID-19.
Why will the cost be so low?
The price will be based on the actual cost of production — without the mark-ups, rebates, middlemen fees, and marketing expenses that make insulin prohibitively expensive. Civica's insulin development costs are being funded through donations made by a national consortium of health organizations, health insurance companies, and philanthropies. As a nonprofit entity, Civica will sell its insulin at the lowest sustainable price, without the pressure to generate financial returns to a small group of shareholders at the expense of patients.
Speed bumps in the road ahead
Civica's insulin won't be available for two more years due to the time it takes to obtain FDA approval and to ramp up production. But because the FDA has already approved similar insulins, the development pathway is clear. Civica will complete all the clinical trials and meet all the standards necessary for FDA approval, and we anticipate full approval in early 2024.
There may be opposition from companies that benefit from the status quo. Americans currently spend $48 billion a year on insulin, and that amount is growing. Insulin's annual per capita cost is expected to jump from $6,000 today to $12,000 in 2024, and a lot of manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, wholesalers, and others don't want to give up their piece of that pie.
Who will benefit from low-cost insulin?
Everyone in the United States who takes insulin. People who are uninsured or underinsured will specifically benefit. They don't get the price breaks that are currently offered through commercial insurance providers, Medicaid, and Medicare, and they often resort to rationing the insulin they need.
Rationing insulin is like going into the ER after a bad car accident and saying, "I can only afford one stitch." The immediate result is that a diabetic's blood sugar level shoots out of control, which causes symptoms like blurred vision, fatigue, and headaches. If it keeps happening, long-term complications include heart disease, kidney damage, blindness, and more.
Each of those problems is not only debilitating, but preventable — and each of them will get better because of what Civica is doing. The World Health Organization says: "Insulin is the bedrock of diabetes treatment — it turns a deadly disease into a manageable one."
And thanks to Civica, diabetes will be not only less deadly, but less expensive.