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Drug company Eli Lilly offering half-price insulin amid political pressure

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Move comes as Capitol Hill takes aim at patients' rising pharmaceutical costs

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Drug maker Eli Lilly announced Monday it will be offering a half-priced generic version of its brand-name insulin, Humalog, providing relief at the pharmaceutical counter for diabetic patients. The move comes as federal lawmakers have renewed focus on the rising costs of life-saving medications for Americans.

What are the details?

Last Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee questioned the CEOs of seven major pharmaceutical firms over the reasons for high (and rising) drug prices in the U.S. Those present were the heads of AbbVie, AstraZeneza, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Janssen, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi, PBS reported.

This week, the Senate Aging Committee and House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee are also slated to tackle the topic, as calls grow for Congress to act.

"The key thing to watch for," according to Politico, is "if and when lawmakers move from exploratory hearings to actually debating legislation. Until then, it's just more hot air in D.C."

Yet, bipartisan legislation is expected to come out of the hearings, and analysts say Eli Lilly is trying to be ahead of it.

Although Eli Lilly executives were not involved in the Senate Finance Committee hearings last week, Business Insider reported that the firm's move to offer its insulin at a 50 percent reduction was "a bet that a lower price tag will help it escape the political crosshairs."

In a news release Monday, Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO David Ricks said, "We've engaged in discussion about the price of insulin with many different stakeholders in America's health care system: people living with diabetes, caregivers, advocacy groups, health care professionals, payers, wholesalers, lawmakers, and leading health care scholars.

"Solutions that lower the cost of insulin at the pharmacy have been introduced in recent months," Ricks continued, "but more people need help. We're eager to bring forward a low-priced rapid-acting insulin."

The generic insulin will be sold under the name Insulin Lispro, and is the same molecule as Humalog. A single vial will be sold for $137.35, and a five-pack of pens will go for $265.20, PBS said.

Anything else?

Within hours of Eli Lilly's announcement about offering a cut-price version of Humalog — a top-selling insulin treatment — the company's stock price dropped 2.4 percent, The Street reported.

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