This State Is Cutting Insulin Costs to Just $30

Right now, over a million Americans can't afford their insulin. One state is taking historic action.

Over the past few years, one of the strongest pillars of many democratic campaigns has been to lower the cost of insulin. Though the drug is essential and life-saving to the 37.3 million Americans with diabetes, accessing it has been cost-prohibitive to many. The price of the drug spiked 54% from 2014 to 2019, and though it has since dropped about 5%, thanks largely to FDA approvals of generic and biosimilar products, it still hasn’t been cheap enough for many American families to comfortably afford it. In the words of Niketa Calame-Harris, an advocacy chair of the American Diabetes Association: “There are people choosing between rent or insulin, groceries or insulin.”

Fortunately, all that is about to change for residents of America’s most populous state. Here’s everything you need to know about the plan to cut insulin prices by over 90% for over 3 million diabetes patients.

Which state is cutting insulin costs?

On March 18, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the CalRX Biosimilar Insulin Initiative to lower the cost of insulin. According to state officials, a 10-milliliter vial of insulin in California can cost up to $300 currently; CalRX will lower that price to just $30. Additionally, a box of 5 3-milliliter insulin pens will now cost just $55.

When asked about the historical move, Newsom said, “People should not be forced to go into debt to get lifesaving prescriptions. Through CalRX, Californians will have access to some of the most inexpensive insulin available, helping them save thousands each year.”

How is California cutting insulin costs?

California will partner with the Utah-based non-profit Civica to manufacture its own insulin. The initial contract with Civica will cost California $50 million to produce three interchangeable biosimilar insulins. California will also spend an additional $50 million to develop its own California-based manufacturing facility.

These manufacturing investments will put the state in direct competition with the existing big pharmaceutical companies. This could result in a further drop in insulin prices elsewhere—as we’ve seen in the past five years—as Californians turn to more affordable generic brands. According to Newsom’s official website, “CalRX will prevent the egregious cost-shifting that happens in traditional pharmaceutical price games.”

When and where can Californians buy $30 insulin?

Insulin Inject Needle Isolated On White BackgroundTRADOL LIMYINGCHAROEN/Getty Images

Californians should be able to purchase low-cost insulin nest year. FDA approval is slated for “sometime in 2024,” and “public availability shortly thereafter.”

CalRX’s generic versions of the three most popular insulin medications—Glargine, Aspart and Lispro—will be available at pharmacies and by mail. All California pharmacies will be required to carry the medications. Californians with diabetes will not need a new insulin prescription to pick up the CalRX versions.

Who is eligible to receive $30 insulin?

There are no eligibility requirements for California’s manufactured insulins, nor are there any applications, “voucher[s] or coupon[s].” Every Californian, regardless of insurance status, will be able to access them.

Will California manufacture any other drugs?

As part of California’s ongoing efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, Newsom has announced the state’s intentions to manufacture Naloxone. Naloxone is a fast-acting medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Taken as an injection or as a nasal spray (often known as Narcan), it is one of the best tools for combatting the fentanyl crisis.

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Van Van Cleave
Van Van Cleave (they/them) is a writer and artist working out of Oakland, CA. The youngest in a long line of DIYers and creatives, Van fancies themself an encyclopedia of practicable knowledge for better living. They are passionate about all things food, home, garden, and lifestyle. If you've ever dreamed of befriending the Fab Five, Van gets you, and may just be the next best thing.