Lily increases diabetes drug by 700% over 20 years

pharmafile | November 3, 2016 | News story | Business Services, Manufacturing and Production, Medical Communications, Research and Development, Sales and Marketing Bernie Sanders, Eli Lily, Humalog, diabetes 

It has come to light that, over a 20 year period, Eli Lily has increased the price of its diabetes drug Humalog by 700%, after a tweet from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ account brought the scandal to public attention.

The company’s stock fell to a seven-month low after the tweet was posted, echoing similar events in October when Sanders called out Ariad Pharmaceuticals for its price hiking of its chronic myeloid leukaemia treatment Iclusig.

Humalog has risen in price from $21 per vial to over $250 in just two decades, and the company has been able to do this by continuously marketing tweaked versions of the drug as new, “improved” versions. Harvard Medical School professor David Nathan had explained: “I don’t think it takes a cynic such as myself to see most of these drugs are being developed to preserve patent protection. The truth is they are marginally different, and the clinical benefits of them over the older drugs have been zero.”

A tweet from Sanders’ account read: “People are dying or getting sicker because they can’t afford their insulin, just so Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk can make outrageous profits,”

In a video clip posted on his twitter page, he also commented: “What you have is an incredibly powerful industry charging any price you want and the result of that is one out of five Americans can’t afford the medicine that they need.”

Lily has defended the hike, saying: “When Lilly released third quarter earnings on 25 October, the biggest miss noted was Humalog, whose US revenue fell 14%, driven by a 24% decline in net price.”

It has also eschewed sole responsibility for the scandal: “A permanent solution that gives everyone who uses insulin reasonable access will require leadership and cooperation across many stakeholders, including manufacturers, (pharmacy benefit managers), payers, and policymakers. That’s because the answer itself isn’t simple.”

The global insulin business is valued at £23 billion. To read more on the US price hiking crisis and Sanders’ efforts against big pharma, check out our latest feature in the November issue of Pharmafile.

Matt Fellows

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