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Sanders Says “Much More” Must Be Done After Insulin Maker Announces Price Cuts

Novo Nordisk is planning to cut its insulin prices by up to 75 percent, but it will still remain unaffordable for many.

An insulin pen manufactured by the Novo Nordisk company is displayed on March 14, 2023, in Miami, Florida.

Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk announced on Tuesday that it will be cutting prices of its insulin products amid competition and high scrutiny over insulin prices, prompting calls from progressive lawmakers for lowering the price of insulin products across the board.

The company is lowering the prices of four of its insulin pens and vials by between 65 and 75 percent starting January 2024, it announced on Tuesday. It is a smaller action than that of Eli Lilly, which announced two weeks ago that it’s capping the price of its insulin at $35 monthly, matching the cost of insulin now offered to Medicare recipients, thanks to Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act.

Though Novo Nordisk’s price cuts have garnered many headlines comparing it to Eli Lilly’s action, Novo Nordisk’s products will still be more expensive than the $35 threshold – in some cases, they will cost far more.

According to a press release, vials of NovoLog and NovoLog Mix 70/30 will be cut by 75 percent from $289 to $72, while the pen versions will fall to $139 from the current price of over $500. Vials and pens of Levemir and Novolin will only receive a 65 percent cut, with prices falling to $108 and $48 for vials, respectively, and $162 and $91 for pens.

The move has received praise from President Joe Biden, who previously called on insulin manufacturers to follow Eli Lilly’s lead and lower their insulin prices and reiterated that call on Tuesday.

“I am pleased at today’s announcement that, in line with my call, Novo Nordisk will be lowering their insulin prices by 75 percent, following Eli Lilly’s action,” he said. “This builds on the important progress we made last year when I signed a law to cap insulin at $35 for seniors. I urge all other manufacturers to follow suit and Republicans in Congress to join us and cap insulin at $35 for all Americans.”

Progressive lawmakers have said that the cuts aren’t enough, however – and that $35 a month, or over $400 a year, is still too much for many to afford.

“$72.34 per month for a vial of life-saving insulin? That’s still too high,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri). She called for the passage of a bill she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) recently unveiled that would lower insulin prices even further.

“Congress must pass the Insulin for All bill [Sen. Bernie Sanders] and I introduced last week that will cap insulin at $20 per month,” she said.

Sanders also alluded to the bill in a tweet about Novo Nordisk’s announcement, calling for more action on insulin prices.

“Thanks to grassroots pressure Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk have now cut the price of insulin. That is good news and Sanofi must follow suit. But much more needs to be done,” he wrote on Twitter. “We will soon hold a hearing on the need to guarantee insulin at an affordable price to everyone who needs it.”

High insulin prices are indeed a burden for many Americans. A recent study estimated that about 1.3 million Americans ration the life-saving drug, or about 16 percent of the roughly 8 million Americans who rely on the drug to survive. Meanwhile, insulin is a big money-maker for drug companies; research has estimated that manufacturers only spend few dollars to make the drug but often charge hundreds of dollars for it, securing huge profit margins.

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