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Capping the price of insulin a 'huge win' for diabetics in Bexar County

Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is cutting the price of its insulin products in a big way. (SBG San Antonio)
Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is cutting the price of its insulin products in a big way. (SBG San Antonio)
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SAN ANTONIO - Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly is cutting the price of its insulin products in a big way.

Lilly's CEO Dave Ricks announced Wednesday it was capping the out-of-pocket cost of the life-saving drug at $35. As of May 1, Lilly is also reducing the list price of its non-branded insulin to $25 a vial.

Right now, it is listed at $82 a vial.

This is a culmination of about seven years of work we've been doing to reduce the price of our insulins, launching our own generic to our own bestselling brand,” Ricks said. “But with the change last year in the Medicare Part D benefit, the senior benefit to $35, we think that should be the new standard in America. And so, while we could wait for Congress to act or the health care system in general to apply that standard, we're just applying it ourselves. Lilly's going to buy down all of our customers out of pocket cost to $35 at the pharmacy counter automatically.

Although insulin is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, the cost has been rising for years.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says the average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013. Demand has increased as diabetes becomes the fastest-growing chronic disease in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 37 million adults in the US are diabetic.

According to University health, the number of people with prediabetes and diabetes is growing at a fast rate in Texas and Bexar County. The most recent figures show that more than 14% of Bexar County residents have diabetes. This percentage is higher than the state average of 11.4% and higher than the national average of 10.5%.

This announcement could save thousands of people money and potentially save lives in the process.

"I didn't know exactly what I was doing in life, and I felt ashamed that I had diabetes,” said Kyle Kondoff, Type One diabetic and San Antonio firefighter.

Kondoff was diagnosed in 2016. When that happened, he felt like his life was over.

“This is life medication that we have,” he said. “This is this stuff that we need to live. They're charging us to where we can't feed our families to where we can't take care of ourselves."

In Bexar County, its more than 14% of all residents are diabetic and about one third of all San Antonio residents are pre-diabetic.

With the passing of this, $35 is going to be a great win for patients with diabetes, and they're going to really be able to have significant savings to their pocket,” Dr. Carolina Solis-Herrera, Chief of endocrinology and medical director for diabetes and endocrinology clinics at UT Health San Antonio, said. “The other important thing that we do not remember many times is that patients with diabetes have multiple comorbidities and they take multiple medications. And it is very unfortunate what sometimes they must decide, what do I give priority to? So, I think this is going to be you know, of great help to our community with diabetes, and especially here in our community in bear County in San Antonio.

“People are having to choose whether they feed their families or by their insulin by their kids insulin by somebody's insulin, whatever it is, because it can cost them upwards of $1,500 a month,” Kondoff said.

Thirty percent of diabetics use Eli Lilly insulin.

Reducing the cost to $35 a month will save people thousands of dollars, potentially save lives, and possibly convince the other major manufacturers to follow suit.

“This is a great win for all the patients with diabetes by having this cost of insulin cap at $35,” Dr. Solis-Herrera said.

“This huge step in the right direction is going to help so many people and there will only be positives for it,” Kondoff said.

Ricks says the out of pocket cap goes into effect immediately and will help those with private insurance, Medicaid, and those that are uninsured.

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Kondoff is the head of his own non-profit, T1D Fire Rescue, which gives diabetes supplies to those in need.

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