Half-price generics of Novolog and Novolog mix announced by Novo Nordisk

WRITTEN BY: Todd Boudreaux

On Friday, September 6, Novo Nordisk announced in a press release that authorized generic versions of NovoLog and NovoLog Mix will be made available on January 2, 2020. The news was part of a broader announcement of more affordable options coming at the start of the year. In addition to the authorized generics, Novo Nordisk will be offering a $99.00 Cash Card program for analog insulin.

The list prices for Insulin Aspart and Insulin Aspart Mix (generics for NovoLog and NovoLog Mix) are set at 50% of the list prices of branded versions. Prices for new authorized generics in vials and pens are listed below:

  • Insulin Aspart 10mL vial/1000 Units: $144.68
  • Insulin Aspart 5x3mL Penfill (box of 5 pens)/1500 Units: $268.73
  • Insulin Aspart 5x3mL FlexPen (box of 5 pens)/1500 Units: $279.41
  • Insulin Aspart 70/30 FOB 10mL vial/1000 Units: $150.06
  • Insulin Aspart 70/30 FOB 5x3mL FlexPen (box of 5 pens)/1500 Units: $279.41

Novo Nordisk expects that Insulin Aspart will be available to patients who take NovoLog without an additional prescription from a doctor. Patients will be able to speak directly with a pharmacist to determine whether NovoLog or Insulin Aspart is a more cost effective option for them.The authorized generics will be made available from newly established Novo Nordisk US affiliate Novo Nordisk Pharma Inc. (NNPI).

The announcement mirrors that of Lilly Diabetes last March, when the company announced that an authorized generic version of Humalog — Insulin Lispro — was being made available for half the price of Humalog. The same question that Lilly Diabetes faced at the time is likely to be asked of Novo Nordisk: Why not just cut the price of NovoLog in half?

If Novo Nordisk were to cut the list prices of of its current insulins, it would jeopardize insurance coverage for them due to the complex system of insulin pricing in the United States. High (and rising) list prices for NovoLog and other insulins are partially due to rebates paid by the insulin manufacturer to insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers. Introducing a generic insulin at half the cost means that insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and other members of the supply chain will continue to receive large rebates through existing contracts on the brand name drugs, while Novo Nordisk can simultaneously offer a lower-cost generic option for those in need.

Novo Nordisk has indicated to Beyond Type 2 that they are in ongoing discussions with wholesalers and pharmacy benefit managers to encourage formulary uptake of the authorized generics.

People without insurance who are paying 100% out of pocket for their supplies are likely to benefit the most from the half-price options. People with diabetes on high-deductible health insurance plans (HDHPs) will also have another option that reduces monthly out-of-pocket expenses before they’ve met their deductible. Those with comprehensive drug coverage as part of insurance may not find this option helpful.

“People with diabetes need more affordable options and we are going to continue doing what we can now while also working with other healthcare stakeholders on longer-term system reform. For instance, we support the recent IRS ruling that classifies diabetes medications as preventive care. We believe this has the potential to help a significant number of people with diabetes from an affordability perspective,” said Doug Langa, Executive Vice President, North America Operations and President of Novo Nordisk Inc.

The IRS designation of insulin as a preventative service allows such medications to be exempt from the deductible phase of some health plans, preventing patients from ever paying full list price for their insulin. This guidance can be applied to health plans starting in 2020, and many are hopeful that insurance providers will opt in, as there is ample evidence to suggest that widening access for insulin will be cheaper for payers in the long term. Indeed, insurance providers as well as advocacy groups had been pushing for the change; managing chronic health conditions before they become exacerbated — and more costly — can be viewed as a win-win for both patient and insurer. For people with diabetes, uninterrupted access to insulin is both life-sustaining and cost saving.

The other new offer announced by Novo Nordisk launching on January 2, 2020 is a $99.00 Cash Card program for analog insulins which, according to the press release, “allows people with diabetes to purchase up to three vials or two packs of FlexPen/FlexTouch pens of any combination of Novo Nordisk analog insulins (3000 – 3600 Units total depending on brands) for a flat cost of $99.00.” The Cash Card program will be available to people with commercial insurance as well as the uninsured.

The press release also pointed to affordability programs currently offered by Novo Nordisk, as well human insulin from the manufacturer which is available for $25/vial at Walmart and other locations.

I applaud the idea but as long as it’s linked to the completely made-up list price that has no basis in what payers are actually paying for it after refunds—- it will be a meaningless gesture

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I agree. $99 is a farce, the pricing could very easily have been $25

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I’m not in the US but this entire situation baffles me.

How can the same company come out with a half-price generic as well as the brand-name product? Isn’t that generic basically the same product? And isn’t the fact that they’re selling it at half-price proof that they are making a profit even at that half price? The company that makes the EpiPen did this same thing in the US last year…generic at half the price, made by the same company that makes the brand-name product, and the products even look identical except one has the brand-name and one doesn’t.

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99% of the time, the same manufacturer will make the name brand and generic. It’s to generate money after the patent expires.

The epi- pen situation is even more egregious, because that was handed to Mylan for nothing in a buyout deal.

This is an important point. If insurance decides not to cover the generic, then those with high-deductible insurance will still foot the bill for the overpriced brand name.

I had that problem getting generic Humalog from Express Scripts. Humalog isn’t on their formulary so my doctor filed a PA requesting they supply the generic version. Guess what? They supplied Humalog but wouldn’t supply the generic. I hadn’t reached the high-deductible for my plan and had to pay list price for Humalog.

I just avoid the whole ‘game’ in the US and buy my insulin in Canada out of pocket at about 10% of US list price. Not only do I save a fortune on insulin but also save a lot on insurance premiums, co-pays and the donut hassle.

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What also gets me is their now “half priced” is still more expensive than years ago. I’ve watched Lantus go from $79 (2009/2010?) a vial to about $300 now. So “half price” for Lantus might be better than the gouging they are doing now but will still net them a big profit.

I have not a clue how much Novolog was back then to know what it’s cheaper price it sold at.

I have to wonder if the price increase was in expectation of controls and a win win for them. Make lots of money while they can, plus when we bargain for a cheaper price we say, see how much lower we are willing to sell it?

Plus the kickback situation, like when generic Humalog wasn’t on the formulary because I’m sure they weren’t getting kickbacks is also ridiculous. The insurance companies in this case are just as guilty about people that don’t have coverage or have a high deductible having to pay exorbitant prices.

I think CJ114 is right, just get it from Canada and it’s not the “game” it is here.

Believe me when I say they are entitled to profit, but the problem is why is the US getting hit with the high prices for some people only? And Europe, Canada etc don’t pay it. One of the problems here is the set up of how the industry is working, but also at the same time being protected by what they are selling by patents.

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I haven’t ever been on Novolog but was on Humalog and in 2008 it was $40 a bottle.

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I can remember paying $10 for insulin. Any kind. That was YEARS ago. LOL

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Well, I just dont know. I am allergic to Hualog and when I was on the Health Exchange I had to fight a grievance board to be allowed to purchase Novolog on a formulary exception for about nine months. they did not renew the option the next year, but I had to move to Medicaid so I am stocking up while I can. This will help somewhat, but too bad it’s even necessary.