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Walmart announced on Tuesday the launch of its first-ever private brand analog insulin in its United States pharmacies – a move the world’s largest retailer says could help its millions of US customers living with diabetes cope with the blistering price of prescription drugs.
“We know many people with diabetes struggle to manage the financial burden of this condition, and we are focused on helping by providing affordable solutions,” Walmart said in a press release. “We also know this is a condition that disproportionately impacts underserved populations.”
The retailing giant’s private ReliOn NovoLog Insulin products include analog insulin vials that sell for $72.88 and a FlexPen priced at $85.88.
Walmart said the products will save customers up to 75 percent off the cash price of branded analog insulin products. That translates into a “savings of up to $101 per branded vial or $251 per package of branded FlexPens”.
Produced in partnership with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the new products are intended for use by patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Walmart said.
Analog or synthetic insulin is grown in a lab and altered to have special characteristics, such as acting faster or longer than human insulin.
ReliOn NovoLog is a rapid-acting analog insulin used to control high blood sugar in adults and children suffering from diabetes. It will require a prescription from a physician and will be available in Walmart’s US pharmacies starting next week, and Sam’s Club pharmacies starting mid-July.
Nearly one in 10 adults or roughly 34 million Americans have diabetes.
Most of them have type 2 diabetes, which is a chronic condition linked to genetics. Type 2 diabetes is also linked to weight gain and physical inactivity.
Eating right and exercising can help manage type 2 diabetes. Though not all people with diabetes need insulin, it is a life-saving drug and for many critical to maintaining good health.
The 1.2 million people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, require lifelong insulin after the pancreas stops producing a sufficient amount.
High insulin prices have long been criticised by patients, advocates and US lawmakers, which has led to congressional investigations into affordability and access for people who need insulin to control blood glucose levels.
“We know many people with diabetes struggle to manage the financial burden of this condition, and we are focused on helping by providing affordable solutions. We also know this is a condition that disproportionately impacts underserved populations,” Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of Walmart Health & Wellness, said in a statement.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes comes with high medical costs, often running up to $9,601 per person per year.
Aggregate out-of-pocket spending by people with Medicare Part D for insulin products skyrocketed between 2007 and 2017 from $236m to $984m, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Medicare Part D is a drug benefit that helps Medicare beneficiaries pay for self-administered prescription drugs through prescription drug insurance premiums.
Walmart has for years tried to be at the forefront of retailers offering customers more affordable drug options. In 2006, it began selling generic drugs for $4 per monthly prescription. The move was later adopted by other pharmacies.