Health insurer Cigna Corp. and its newly acquired pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts said Wednesday they plan to reduce out-of-pocket costs for life-saving insulin for some diabetic customers.
The companies said commercially-insured patients whose employers opt into the program will pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin. Typically, Cigna and Express Scripts customers who use insulin pay about $41.50 out of pocket for a 30-day supply. The discounts could affect up to 700,000 patients, a company spokeswoman said.
The rising cost of insulin has sparked outrage among patients and increased scrutiny from lawmakers as it has made treating diabetes costlier. On Tuesday, members of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee sent letters to the top PBMs, including Express Scripts, asking for information on their role in skyrocketing insulin prices.
And next Wednesday, the top manufacturers of insulin—Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi—are slated to testify before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee about their drug pricing practices. Cigna said it secured discounts from those three manufacturers, so it wouldn't absorb the total costs of its new program.
A January report from the Health Care Cost Institute found that Type 1 diabetes costs alone rose from $12,467 in 2012 to $18,494 in 2016. For patients, the average annual out-of-pocket spending for insulin jumped from $2,864 to $5,705 in that same time frame, according to the study.
More than 1.2 million Americans live with Type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Type 1 patients do not make insulin and need several doses a day. But there are millions of others with Type 2 diabetes who may also need insulin.
The spokeswoman said the company expects to have the program up and running for Express Scripts members before the end of this year and for Cigna plan members in 2020. The companies said that in most cases, employers who opt in will not see any additional cost to the plan.
"For people with diabetes, insulin can be as essential as air. 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," Dr. Steve Miller, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Cigna, said in the announcement.