California signs deal to make its own affordable insulin

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new contract with nonprofit drugmaker Civica Rx, a move that brings the state one step closer to creating its own line of insulin to reduce the cost of the drug.

Once the drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Newsom told a press conference on Saturday, Civica — as part of the 10-year, $50 million deal with the state — will begin manufacturing the new CalRx insulins later this year.

The contract covers three forms of insulin – glargine, lispro and aspart. Civica expects them to be interchangeable with popular brand name insulins: Lantus from Sanofi, Humalog from Eli Lilly and Novolog from Novo Nordisk, respectively.

State insulins will cost no more than $30 per 10 milliliter vial and no more than $55 for a box of five pre-filled pen cartridges – for insured and uninsured patients. The drugs will be available nationwide, the governor’s office said.

“It’s a big deal, folks,” the governor said. “That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the United States.”

A 10-milliliter vial of insulin can cost up to $300, Newsom said. Under the new contract, patients who pay for insulin out of pocket could save up to $4,000 a year. The federal government this year imposed a $35 monthly cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs for some Medicare enrollees, including seniors.

Proponents have lobbied for years to make insulin more affordable. According to a report published last year in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, 1 in 6 Americans with diabetes who use insulin said the cost of the drug forced them to ration their supply.

“This is an extraordinary move in the pharmaceutical industry, not just for insulin, but potentially for all kinds of drugs,” said Robin Feldman, a professor at the College of Law at the University of California at San Francisco, at Kaiser Health News. “It’s a very difficult industry to disrupt, but California is about to do just that.”

The news comes after a handful of drugmakers who dominate the insulin market recently said they would cut list prices for their insulin. (Listing prices, set by the drugmaker, are often what uninsured patients — or those with high deductibles — have to pay for the drug out of pocket.)

After rival Eli Lilly announced a plan to cut prices for some of its insulins by 70%, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi followed suit last week, saying they would lower list prices for some of their products to insulin base up to 75% next year. . Together, the three companies control approximately 90% of the US insulin supply.

Newsom said the state’s effort addresses the underlying problem of unaffordable insulin without requiring taxpayers to subsidize drugmakers’ price abuse.

“What it does,” he said of California’s plan, “is a game-changer. It fundamentally lowers the cost. Period. Period.”

Insulin is an essential medication for people with type 1 diabetes, whose body does not produce enough insulin. People with type 1 need insulin daily to survive.

The insulin contract is part of California’s larger CalRx initiative to produce generic drugs under the state’s own label. Newsom says the state is pushing to make generic naloxone next.

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