Walmart to offer own low-cost brand of insulin

Walmart is getting into the insulin business. The mega-retailer on Tuesday announced the launch of a new brand of analog insulin that will come at a much cheaper price for patients without insurance who need to pay out of pocket for the lifesaving drug.

The company is teaming with Novo Nordisk to sell an exclusive version of insulin through Walmart’s private ReliOn brand, in an effort to grow its health offerings and counter competition from Amazon, which is trying to break through the pharmacy space.

By working directly with the manufacturer, Walmart aims to undercut the existing price point on insulin that has been widely criticized. More than 34 million Americans have diabetes.

Available soon: The drug will be available in Walmart pharmacies this week, and Sam’s Club pharmacies in mid-July across the United States, the company said.

Customers will need a prescription in order to purchase the products, which will cost about $73 for a vial or about $86 for a package of prefilled insulin pens.

The price will represent a savings of as much as $101 per vial of insulin or up to $251 per pack of prefilled insulin pens.

The insulin racket: Three companies — Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk — control 99 percent of the world’s insulin, and even though the drug has been virtually unchanged in the past 100 years, the price has skyrocketed, especially in the past two decades.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the average price of insulin nearly tripled between 2002 and 2013 and then nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016.