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Company to make insulin more affordable in Utah

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Mar 9, 2022

John Locher, Associated Press

In this April 18, 2017, file photo, a woman with Type 2 diabetes prepares to inject herself with insulin at her home in Las Vegas.

For years, 16-year-old Katherine Stewart has worried about the cost of insulin to control her diabetes.

On Tuesday, Civica RX said it will begin selling the drug at a significantly lower cost, taking the pressure off of Stewart, as well as others who suffer with the autoimmune disease.

“I’m going to be getting out of high school and going to college and will be off of my parents insurance. Insulin is so expensive and it’s something I’m already worrying about,” she said. “It’s really stressed me out and I feel like it shouldn’t be that way. With this project coming up, it gives me a lot of relief to know it’s going to be cheaper for me.”

Dan Liljenquist, said that once they are approved, three insulin drugs will be manufactured and distributed at prices much lower than insulins currently on the market. Liljenquist is the board chair, innovator and Intermountain chief strategy officer for the Utah-based non-profit pharmaceutical company

Intermountain, which helped develop and launch Civica in 2018, said in a statement its goal is to improve the affordability and availability of generic medications routinely used in U.S. hospitals, focusing on the prevention of chronic drug shortages and price increases.

Image supplied, Intermountain Healthcare

In this screenshot taken from video, Brandi and Katherine Stewart talk about the cost of Katherine's insulin during a press conference on Tuesday, March 8, 2022.

“The current high-priced environment for insulin has resulted in some people being forced to ration the insulin they need,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, Intermountain president and CEO. “Long-term complications include heart disease, kidney damage, blindness, and more. But well-controlled diabetes reduces the incidence of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, amputation, and renal failure needing dialysis. This game-changing move by Civica will produce a tremendous health benefit for the millions of individuals who have the disease.”

Liljenquist said diabetes is arguably America’s most expensive chronic condition.

“It is heartbreaking that millions of people are rationing their care and putting their lives at risk because they can no longer afford insulin,” Liljenquist said. “Through mission-driven partnerships, we are choosing to create a new market reality where no one is forced to ration essential diabetes medications.”

The drug company will provide three types of insulin, which total about 80% of insulin prescriptions in the United States. The products correspond to Lantus, Humalog and Novolog, and will be offered for no more than $30 per vial or $55 for a pack of insulin pens.

Stewart, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 5, said she administers anywhere from six to 10 vials of insulin per day, depending on circumstances. Her mother, Brandi Stewart, said their out of pocket cost is around $500 per month and has been as high as $2,000 per month before hitting their deductible.

“I’ve heard from different people who can’t afford their insulin. One family with three children with diabetes have to pay $11,000 per month before hitting their deductible,” Brandi Stewart said. “This is a real problem that people can’t afford a life-giving, life-sustaining drug. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Liljenquist said the company will include what they believe is a fair price of insulin on all of its prescription boxes.

“We understand there has to be a mark up but that should only be $8 to $10 instead of hundreds of millions,” he said. “The price of insulin has gone up 11% per year for the past 20 years, but the price of manufacturing insulin has not gone up, and it definitely hasn’t gone up 11% per year for 20 years.”

Liljenquist said the price increase has to do with the structure of the market and the necessity associated with the drug — if a person doesn’t get the insulin they need, they will die. This combination creates a captive audience for drug makers.

“We’re not going to play that game,” he said. “We will make sure the business is self-sustaining, but no more. We will not make a penny off of Civica.”

The insulin will not be available until the first part of 2024 when they expect to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration. In the meantime, the company will complete all clinical trials and meet all standards for FDA approval.

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