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FDA OKs Automatic Use of a Cheaper Generic  Insulin
  • Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
  • Posted July 29, 2021

FDA OKs Automatic Use of a Cheaper Generic  Insulin

U.S. pharmacists will now be able to automatically substitute a cheaper biosimilar for a more expensive brand-name insulin, the U.S Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday.

The agency's approval of an "interchangeable" biosimilar could save diabetics and health plans millions each year, the Associated Press reported. Until now, doctors have had to specifically prescribe a biosimilar or approve substituting it for a more expensive brand-name insulin.

The FDA said Wednesday that the biosimilar Semglee is interchangeable with the widely used fast-acting insulin Lantus. A biosimilar is a near copy of an injected biologic medicine that's manufactured inside living cells, the Associated Press reported.

A typical month's supply of Semglee injector pens cost about $150 to $190 without insurance, compared to $340 to $520 for Lantus.

Semglee is from Viatris Inc., which is seeking FDA approval of another biosimilar of a long-lasting insulin.

From 2020 to 2024, savings from the use of biosimilars will exceed $100 billion in the United States, health data firm IQVIA suggests.

U.S. sales of biosimilars are lower than in Europe due to factors such as red tape, lengthy patents and opposition from brand-name drug makers, the AP said.

Only 20 of 29 FDA-approved biosimilars -- for cancer and immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis -- are currently available in the United States, Sean McGowan, head of biosimilars at AmerisourceBergen, a leading drug wholesaler, told the AP.

"These products are highly similar, but much more affordable," McGowan told the AP.

More information

Visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for more on insulin.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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