Pharmaceutical company to produce affordable insulin in Petersburg
Civica CEO says insulin vials will be priced at $30 regardless of insurance
PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Starting this year, the out-of-pocket costs of insulin will be capped at just $35 a month if you have Medicare as a provision through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, but a pharmaceutical company expanding in Petersburg says it will be producing insulin for anyone regardless of their insurance at an even lower price.
In approximately nine months, Civica Rx says it will begin producing insulin at its newly constructed Petersburg manufacturing plant for just $30 per vial and $55 for five disposable pens.
The company’s CEO, Ned McCoy, says this comes at a time when some Americans pay upwards of $300 or more a month to acquire the life-saving drug.
“We’ve heard of folks paying as much as $350 for a vial or for five pens, so our price of $30 per vial or $55 per five pens may be as much as 90 percent off that price,” McCoy said. “This is for the three largest insulin in the U.S. market, which makes up about 80 percent of the insulin market.”
Unlike the $35 out-of-pocket cap through the IRA, McCoy says every person in central Virginia and across America will have access to the company’s manufactured insulin products. Once its plant is up and running, Civica will produce generic versions of Lantus, Humalog, and Novolog.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the price of the four most popular types of insulin has tripled over the past decade.
McCoy blames the exorbitant prices on a broken pharmaceutical market which incentivizes raising costs of life-saving medications to boost profits for companies.
“The U.S. market for insulin is really a poster child for the broken market. Insulin costs 8 to 10 times more in the U.S. than it does in many other countries, and it’s because of the way our system works,” McCoy said. “Unfortunately, insulin was invented over 100 years ago and should essentially be generic. However, there are three large companies that compete by giving higher rebates to get on the formulary through the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM).”
“Overtime each year they increase the price of insulin and give higher rebates, so what winds up happening, in the end, is that some patients may be covered through their insurance and may not have to pay a lot for their insulin, but many others if they have not met their deductible or they do not have insurance they pay full retail,” McCoy said.
That means people like pilot Andrew Crider pay way more than they should for the price of insulin.
Crider says he feels most alive in his plane with his head in the clouds, but the looming costs of insulin keep him from doing what he loves.
“When I’m in the air, the world feels like a much simpler and peaceful place, but when I’m thinking about my diabetes, I’m thinking about not only myself but every diabetic who spends every moment of our days budgeting our insulin, budgeting how we take care of this disease,” Crider said. “It costs me about $150 every four weeks or so.”
“We find that heartbreaking,” McCoy said.
VCU Physician Dr. Edmond Wickham says accessibility can sometimes be what limits his diabetic patients from getting the help they need.
“People with diabetes can lead really healthy lives, and it’s about having the kind of support and access to be able to do that,” Wickham said.
Wickham says it is estimated that 10 percent of Americans have some form of diabetes and that disease rates, particularly with type 2, increase with age.
“There are a lot of therapies that can help our patients with diabetes live healthy lives, but it’s important that they have access to those therapies, including with their financial resources,” Wickham said.
There are also a lot of other costs related to the care of people with diabetes, including supplies for glucose monitoring.
McCoy says Civica was established in September 2018 by large hospital systems that had difficulty getting essential medications for hospitals.
Civica was also partially funded by the U.S. government through a grant from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Civica partnered with another company in Petersburg, which also produces a pharmaceutical ingredient in the area. Because the company is a nonprofit, it can make the necessary business moves to reduce the price of insulin where other pharmaceutical companies won’t.
“We have a strong team that we’ve put together over the last four years at Civica, and we’ve already launched over 70 medications that are being used right now at the hospitals. Many folks are using our medications today,” McCoy said. “Over the last four years since we started the company, We’ve already shipped over 100 million doses of medication, so we’ve been down this path before we’ve done this already.”
Crider says the reduced cost of Civica’s insulin would drastically change how he and many others live their life.
“Rather than budgeting how I take care of the disease, now I can just take care of the disease, and that’s going to mean a lot,” Crider said. “That’s going to change for us diabetics our outlook on life and how we interact with the world. We will now have more to give because less is being taken from us financially.”
McCoy says Petersburg’s access to I-95 and other major highway systems made it an easy area to expand. Later this year, the CEO says the company will manufacture runs of its medication and insulin for hospitals. When that happens, it will collect stability data with the FDA to get approval to launch the product.
“Once completed, the 140,000 sq. ft. facility will support 186 jobs,” said McCoy. “Our team has done this before, and we feel comfortable and confident that we can do it, McCoy said. “We are prepared to make essentially as much volume as we need to make, and with us being a nonprofit, our goal is not to maximize profit or sell the most insulin. We are prepared to do it so we can fix the market.”
The Petersburg plant will begin producing insulin products in the third quarter of 2023, which it will sell in 2024.
“We will have coverage, and we will offer the product to everyone,” McCoy said. “This could change the lives of many people.”
At this time it is too early to send people to the location where they can receive insulin, but people who would like more information about Civica’s affordable insulin initiative can visit www.civicainsulin.org.
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