A collection of insulin pens and needle caps beside a glucometer at the MSF clinic in Arsal, north Lebanon, where MSF re-introduced insulin pens as part of its free medical care for people living with type 1 diabetes. Photo credit: Carmen Yahchouchi/MSF
Research article |

JAMA Network Open: Estimated Sustainable Cost-Based Prices for Diabetes Medicines

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Photo credit: Carmen Yahchouchi/MSF

In this study by MSF Access Campaign authors, published in JAMA Network Open, the estimated costs of production are reported for two new diabetes medicines (the GLP-1 drugs Ozempic from Novo Nordisk, and Trulicity from Eli Lilly) and for insulin pen injection devices. The study revealed a dramatic markup on the prices of these medicines and pens, highlighting the corporate profiteering that can hinder people’s access to these lifesaving medical tools in low- and middle-income countries.

The GLP-1 medicine semaglutide injectable (Ozempic) could be sold at a profit for just US$0.89 per month, compared to the current global prices being charged of $95-353. Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly are the only producers of GLP-1s today, and their intellectual property barriers on the medicines block generic manufacturing that could help drive prices down.

Insulin pens, which are preferred by people living with diabetes due to ease of use, safety and dosing accuracy, could be sold at a profit for just $0.94-1.30 per pen, compared to the current global prices of $1.99-90.69. Insulin pens could actually be 30% less expensive than older and less user-friendly syringes and vials, if the corporations lowered their prices of the pens.

If these study findings were acted upon by policymakers, governments and procurers, they could have a major positive impact on affordability of and access to diabetes treatments for people in low- and middle-income countries, and beyond.