$99 Insulin Program: The ‘Shot Heard Around the Health Care World’

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics February 2020
Volume 164
Issue 2

Novo Nordisk has fired the first “shot heard around the health care world.”

Healthcare Costs

April 19, 1775 at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts was the “shot heard around the world,” which was the beginning of the American Revolution. This first bold statement by the American colonists was the initial phase of what most believe to be the greatest overthrow of tyranny. After many battles and e gagements, the war was won, and freedom came to the United States.

On January 2, 2020 I was reading an article that described Novo Nordisk starting a new program that offered patients insulin for $99 per month. This program will pay for 3 bottles of insulin or 2 boxes of their pens for $99. That’s right, Novo Nordisk is bypassing insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers, formulary committees, and everyone else who “gets in the way” of patient care. Their program applies to every patient, regardless of insurance. It doesn’t matter whether they have commercial, government or no insurance at all. One picture of Ben Franklin ($100 bill) and you get 3 vials or 2 boxes of pens and a dollar back. Sounds too good to be true.

Back in 1922, Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and James Collip sold their patent for their process on the extraction of insulin to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Dr Banting felt it unethical to profit from the discovery of a lifesaving drug that patients needed. How times have changed a century later! I implore the other makers of insulin to follow suit and come up with their direct-to-patient programs to bypass the ridiculous copays, deductibles, donut holes and other schemes the insurance companies, with the government’s help, have come up with.

Eight years ago, at a picnic, Dr Zane Gates challenged my wife Denise and I to come up with a formulary that he could use for his underinsured patient population. With help from Gretchen and Mark Garofoli (our daughter and son-in-law), and Bill Thompson we came up with a robust formulary that is used daily at the Empower-3 clinic. The only 2 disease states that we couldn’t cover are insulin-dependent diabetes and asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Thanks to Novo Nordisk, 1 of the holes in the formulary is plugged. Now I implore the makers of the asthmas inhalers to come up with a similar program to help this patient population. I’m a seasoned pharmacist that remembers 20 years ago when we had $10 inhalers. I challenge inhaler manufacturers to come up with a $40 per month inhaler. This would keep our patients out of the emergency department and save billions for the health care system.

Novo Nordisk has fired the first “shot heard around the health care world.” I’m hoping for a revolution in health care that frees up our patients from a burdensome, expensive, and cumbersome insurance, government, and manufacturer system. Check out their website at Novocare.com for the $99 per month insulin program.


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