Trouble paying for insulin? Makers offer free, cheap options during coronavirus outbreak

Linda A. Johnson
The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — Diabetes patients struggling to afford insulin, especially those losing health insurance because of the coronavirus pandemic, can get it at sharply reduced prices – even for free.

All top three insulin makers are now offering programs to help patients.

On Tuesday, Novo Nordisk announced a new program offering free insulin for at least three months for those who have lost insurance.

Last week, rival Eli Lilly began offering most of its insulins for a $35 monthly copayment.

Sanofi already had multiple programs offering insulin for free or very little.

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The companies have all been criticized for huge price increases over the past decade that have led some patients to ration their insulin.

“The economic situation has changed dramatically the last few weeks” for patients, said Doug Langa, head of Novo Nordisk’s U.S. operations.

Vulnerable: Meanwhile, people with chronic conditions including diabetes are more vulnerable to complications if they become infected with the coronavirus.

For the Novo Nordisk program, patients must show that because of the pandemic they’ve lost their job and their health insurance, or they’ve started paying for insurance under the COBRA program. Patients can apply starting online Wednesday.

The program will run through the end of the year, Langa said. Some patients can stay on it longer than three months, including those denied Medicaid benefits during that period and those on Medicare.

This photo provided by Novo Nordisk Inc. shows its Tresiba brand insulin. On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, Novo Nordisk announced a new program offering free insulin for at least three months months for diabetes patients who have lost their insurance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Novo Nordisk Inc. via AP)

The new Lilly Insulin Value Program provides Humalog and most other Lilly insulins for $35 a month to people with private insurance or without insurance. Lilly hasn’t set a time limit on the program.

Sanofi’s copay assistance lets most patients with private insurance get Lantus and other insulins for free or $10 monthly. A year ago, the company improved its Insulins Valyou Savings Program, allowing uninsured patients regardless of income to buy insulin products for $99 per month.

Qualified low- and middle-income patients can get insulin and other Sanofi medicines for free through the Sanofi Patient Connection program.