California Advances Plan to Make $30 Insulin

The state will be the first to make its own insulin with its own drug brand. Drug companies have also slashed prices after outcry over the high cost of the life-saving medication.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
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California on Saturday announced it has partnered with an insulin manufacturer, the nonprofit drug company Civica, moving one step closer to its goal of $30 insulin vials for all Californians. Once available, the program will cut insulin prices by 90% and save those who pay with cash between $2,000 and $4,000 per year, according to the announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom's office. 

Newsom had previously announced plans to launch more affordable insulin through its state drug brand, CalRx. California will be the first state to make and sell its own insulin. Before becoming available, the insulin will need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, but production will start on the state-made insulin later this year, Newsom said Saturday, as reported by NPR

"To address the affordability crisis in California, we have to address the high cost of prescription drugs," Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in the announcement. "The CalRx Biosimilar Insulin Initiative will benefit Californians who are today paying too much for a medication that we know is life saving and life altering."

Insulin is a medication that people take to manage diabetes; it's needed for people with Type 1 diabetes, but can be used to treat Type 2 diabetes as well. Diabetes is a chronic, common health condition that interferes with the way peoples' bodies process insulin and blood sugar, and it needs to be managed or it can lead to serious health problems. There's been outcry over the price of insulin. Prices for the most common types of the drug have tripled over the last decade, according to the American Diabetes Association.

CalRx will make "biosimilar" insulins to glargine, aspart and lispro, the governor's office said. A 10-milliliter vial will cost "no more than $30," and a box of five 3-milliliter insulin pens will cost $55, according to details in the news release. To get the state insulin, you won't need a new prescription and can ask for the CalRx generic at participating pharmacies or via the mail. The governor's office added that you won't need a voucher or coupon to get this price, and that it'll be available to Californians who need it regardless of their insurance, potentially making for a simpler rollout.

Drug giant and insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly said earlier this month that it's capping out-of-pocket costs at $35 for its insulin for people with private insurance. Those without insurance can enroll in the company's program to get the same price. Fellow insulin makers Novo Nordisk and Sanofi announced similar caps, all of which are expected to go into effect either this year or next year. 

California's next step, according to the governor's office, is working with Civica to find a state-based manufacturing facility. Newsom also said the state is working on manufacturing its own naloxone (brand name Narcan) -- a drug given to a person experiencing an opioid overdose to stop the overdose. People who use opioids, or those who know someone who does, are encouraged to carry the life-saving drug by harm-reduction groups and public health organizations, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from drug overdoses are a public health crisis that's been exacerbated in pandemic years. 

See also: Best Continuous Glucose Monitors  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.