The new price of Eli Lilly’s generic insulin, Humalog, is $137.35, and sold for $35 per vial in 2001

Isn’t this insane? Only if we put up with it!

This month, Eli Lilly and Co. announced with some fanfare that it was manufacturing a generic version of its own best-selling insulin brand, Humalog, which it would sell for half off — $137.35 versus about $275.

David Ricks, the chief executive of Lilly, said the company was making this seemingly beneficent gesture because “many patients are struggling to afford their insulin.”

But they’re struggling, in large part, because since 2001 Lilly has raised the price of a vial of Humalog to about $275, from $35. Other insulin makers have raised prices similarly.

In Germany, the list price of a vial of Humalog is about $55 — or $45 if you buy five at a time — and that includes some taxes and markup fees. Why not just reduce the price in the United States to address said suffering?

Instead, Lilly decided to come out with a new offering, a so-called authorized generic. This type of product is made by or under an agreement from the brand manufacturer. The medicines are exactly the same as the brand-name drug — often made in the same factory with the same equipment to the same formula. Only the name and the packaging are different.


  1. Charlie Snodderly
    Charlie Snodderly

    I received an email from Susie Madrak through MoveOn that refers to a Bill that would authorize Americans to buy drugs from “Canadian pharmacies.” The serious danger there is that there are many Chinese and Indian manufacturers of unregulated drugs that sell their dangerous drugs over the internet using Canadian addresses. The actual dosage of the active ingredient can vary widely from one tablet/capsule/injection/etc. to another proven by the FDA in thousands of tests of pharmaceuticals in shipments of all sizes, including individual prescriptions seized by US Customs & Border Protection in the U.S. mail on behalf of the FDA.

  2. The elected officials are well aware of this problem, and have set specific standards in their proposed legislation. The government would have to approve vendors.

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