Introduction High prices for insulin pose a barrier to treatment for people living with diabetes, with an estimated 50% of 100 million patients needing insulin lacking reliable access. As insulin analogues replace regular human insulin (RHI) globally, their relative prices will become increasingly important. Three originator companies control 96% of the global insulin market, and few biosimilar insulins are available. We estimated the price reductions that could be achieved if numerous biosimilar manufacturers entered the insulin market.
Methods Data on the price of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) exported from India were retrieved from an online customs database. Manufacturers of insulins were contacted for price quotes. Where market API prices could not be identified, prices were estimated based on comparison of similarity, in terms of manufacturing process, with APIs for which prices were available. Potential biosimilar prices were estimated by adding costs of excipients, formulation, transport, development and regulatory costs, and a profit margin.
Results The manufacturing processes for RHI and insulin analogues are similar. API prices were US$24 750/kg for RHI, US$68 757/kg for insulin glargine and an estimated US$100 000/kg for other analogues. Estimated biosimilar prices were US$48–71 per patient per year for RHI, US$49–72 for neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin and US$78–133 for analogues (except detemir: US$283–365).
Conclusion Treatment with biosimilar RHI and insulin NPH could cost ≤US$72 per year and with insulin analogues ≤US$133 per year. Estimated biosimilar prices were markedly lower than the current prices for insulin analogues. Widespread availability at estimated prices may allow substantial savings globally.