Diabetics enrolled in certain drug benefits plans through Cigna and Express Scripts could see their out-of-pocket costs for insulin capped at $25 per month, according to an April 3 announcement.
The companies, which merged last year, said the new program will save the average patient about $16 per month. Members of their plans spent an average of $41.50 out-of-pocket in 2018 for a 30-day supply of insulin.
“For people with diabetes, insulin can be as essential as air,” Steve Miller, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Cigna, said in the announcement. “We need to ensure these individuals feel secure in their ability to afford every fill so they don’t miss one dose, which can be dangerous for their health.”
Insulin prices have risen sharply in recent years, with some products increasing nearly six-fold in cost since the early 2000s. As a result, these prices have come under congressional scrutiny and Eli Lilly announced in March it would begin selling a half-priced version of its popular insulin medication Humalog.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December found more than one-quarter of diabetics have taken less insulin than prescribed because of cost concerns.
Elizabeth Rowley, founder and director of the diabetes advocacy group T1International, said the new plan announced by Cigna and Express Scripts fails to address the larger issue of high list prices.
“This is yet another P.R. move—a stopgap at best—to release the pressure on those responsible for the insulin price crisis,” she told The New York Times. “Those patients who are lucky enough to be on a ‘participating plan’ can benefit, but what about those who aren’t? This program gives no lifetime ‘assurance’ that people with Type 1 diabetes can rely on.”