Uninsured New Yorkers will now pay lower prices for insulin, thanks to an agreement reached by New York State Attorney General Letitia James.

On Sept. 8, James secured a five-year agreement with pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk to cap the price of insulin at $35 per month for uninsured New Yorkers. The agreement also requires Novo Nordisk to implement a program with pharmacies to notify uninsured patients that they are eligible for the insulin cap. The company must contact patients by using a third-party messaging company that would immediately notify the pharmacy that the patient is eligible for the $35 monthly cap when filling their prescription.

Approximately 1.8 million people in New York have been diagnosed with diabetes, with an estimated 140,000 people in the state being diagnosed with the disease every year. Compared to the general public, diabetics have about 2.3 times the amount of yearly medical costs. A Medical Expenditure Survey Panel from the Commonwealth Fund found that fully uninsured patients from 2014-17 paid an average of $2,456 out-of-pocket for prescriptions, with an average of $1,288 being spent on insulin. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a total of 16.5 percent of insulin users rationed insulin in the past year, the equivalent of 1.3 million adults with diabetes nationwide.

The survey also found that roughly 45 percent of those who are uninsured and at or below the federal poverty line reported difficulties in affording their prescriptions.

In a Sept. 8 press release, James said that the price of insulin should not force patients to “ration their doses or forgo taking their medication.”

“[The] agreement will mean that uninsured New Yorkers do not have to choose between taking their insulin and putting food on the table,” the statement said. “I will always use the powers of my office to help protect vulnerable New Yorkers, and to ensure no company takes advantage of them.”

Founded in 1923, Novo Nordisk is a Denmark-based multinational pharmaceutical company that focuses on treatments for those with diabetes, obesity, rare bleeding disorders and growth hormone-related disorders. In March 2023, Novo Nordisk announced a decrease in the cost of their insulin products, with a pack of five NovoLog insulin pens being decreased from $558.31 to $139.71, and the price of an insulin vial being lowered from $289.36 to $72.34.

The attorney general’s office described additional efforts James took to combat other medical issues in New York state.

“At the height of [COVID-19], the office also worked to recoup money for New Yorkers who were promised rapid [COVID-19] tests but received their results much later,” they wrote in an email. “The office has also done a lot to protect New Yorkers in nursing homes. We have filed lawsuits against four nursing home operators with dozens of locations across the state for resident neglect.”

The agreement is the latest in a string of initiatives taken by James’ office, including a voluntary gun buy-back program implemented in the Binghamton area which resulted in 88 guns being turned in. Back in April 2022, the attorney general secured student debt relief for thousands of New Yorkers whose federal loans were mismanaged by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Recently in August 2023, James won $4.8 million for Broome County in a landmark opioid settlement from pharmaceutical companies and distributors to aid in combating the opioid epidemic.

Sarah Hardin, a junior majoring in political science, expressed her support for the insulin price cap and its potential benefits.

“Being diabetic is not a choice like many other forms of health issues,” Hardin said. “Allowing a cap on insulin prices will help those stress less and spend more on commodities ultimately helping our economy, which currently isn’t doing too amazing.”

Shyla Singh, president of Binghamton University’s Doctors Without Borders and a senior majoring in biology, said that they find the agreement beneficial to restoring patients’ trust in the health care system.

“I think this agreement is a positive thing because it’s a start to reestablishing trust between the patient and doctor, government and health care system,” Singh said. “By making insulin or health care in general affordable, we are signaling to patients that their health and life is invaluable and important no matter what income category they fall into.”

Editor’s Note (9/14): The attribution for the Attorney General’s quote has been changed to reflect the source of information.