HEALTH

Utah company makes goal of making cheaper insulin a reality

Mar 4, 2022, 4:32 PM | Updated: Mar 11, 2022, 1:04 pm

Representative Norm Thurston (R-Provo) holds a vial of insulin as he advocates for a $30 cap on insulin co-pays during a hearing at the State Capitol. (Photo: Kelli Pierce)

(R-Provo)

SALT LAKE CITY — Of the more than 30 million Americans with diabetes, about 7.5 million rely on insulin to manage their condition. The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, but a Utah company is ready to manufacture and distribute much cheaper versions of insulin.

Dan Liljenquist, chairman of the board of Civica Rx, headquartered in Lehi, talks about the company’s journey to this point, with an assist from Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson.

The company’s mission: Ensure essential generic medications — such as insulin — are available and affordable to everyone who needs them.

Insulin’s rising cost

According to American Action Forum:

  • Diabetes cost the United States $327 billion in 2017, becoming the most expensive chronic disease in the nation.
  • The average list price of insulin increased 11 percent annually from 2001 to 2018, with average annual per capita insulin costs now nearing $6,000.
  • One in every four U.S. health care dollars is spent on someone with diabetes, and one in seven dollars is spent directly on diabetes-related expenses.

Biden aims to lower prescription prices 

During his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Joe Biden recognized Joshua Davis, a seventh-grader from Midlothian, Va., who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 11 months. Dad Brian Davis also has Type 1 diabetes.

As part of his economic plan, Mr. Biden vows to cut the cost of prescription drugs and also seeks to cap the cost of insulin at $35 per month.

Joshua celebrated his 13th birthday in the nation’s capital as a guest of the First Lady and received a “Happy birthday, buddy,” from the president during his address.

Insulin for a single, transparent price

Liljenquist said Civica Rx announced Thursday the company will produce three versions of insulin, equivalent to Humalog, Lantus and NovoLog.

“[They] are the three cornerstone insulins that people with Type 1 diabetes rely on every day. We will make these insulins in this not-for-profit organization, with the goal to bring them to market with a single, transparent price that will be based on the cost of development, production and distribution, but without the markups and rebates, which has really plagued the insulin market today,” he said.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s dealing with diabetes,” Matheson said, “it’s so expensive. ‘Do I pay my phone bill or do I get my insulin? Do I fill up the car with gas or do I get my insulin?”

‘Stroke of inspiration’

“I’m an econ guy at heart. I love when markets work well,” Liljenquist said.

But market abuses of generic drugs were bothering him.

“One day I was on a treadmill at a gym in Bountiful, just working out, and this idea of creating a nonprofit generic-drug company to fix specific market failures came to me, and honestly, it felt like a stroke of inspiration,” said Liljenquist. 

Liljenquist, who was once a writer at Deseret News, was considering becoming a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Utah in 2018 when he sat down with Matheson.

“I remember sitting down with you in your office, and Boyd, I think you’re maybe the third or fourth person I told about this. You gave me some life-changing advice: You said Dan, ‘If you’re able to do this with this company you’re thinking about, you’ll maybe do more for the country than you could do in elected office.’ Boyd, I chose to go that route. I just never regretted it for a day since,” Liljenquist said.

Liljenquist pledges Civica Rx will make insulin available at no more than $30 per vial and no more than $55 for a pack of five 3-milliliter cartridges.

“Those [prices] represent between 85 to 90% reduction off the current list price,” he said.

“You said, ‘No, thanks’ to a run for political office. I think the world’s going to be very grateful for that decision,” Matheson said in closing.

 

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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