Lilly putting $400M into U.S. diabetes production, adding 100 jobs

Eli Lilly's capacity for making insulin and other diabetes drugs is being expanded at its headquarter's site in Indianapolis, Indiana. ( Eli Lilly)

Eli Lilly faced critics of rising insulin prices this year by introducing a generic version of its popular Humalog priced at half the cost. Now the drugmaker is investing $400 million in its Indianapolis production site so it can make more diabetes treatments and prepare for pipeline products.

While the investment will add robots and other new technology, it will result in 100 new jobs. 

"These investments support our manufacturing capabilities in Indianapolis, including additional capacity and technology upgrades to our active ingredient, syringe filling, device assembly and packaging operations," Myles O'Neill, president of Lilly’s manufacturing operations said in a statement. "All of these projects support Lilly's investment in next-generation manufacturing and feature high levels of automation, robotics, new technologies and advanced data analytics."

Among other enhancements, a spokeswoman said in an email that upgrades to the device and packaging assembly operations will include a high-tech warehouse using the latest technologies in warehousing, automated guided vehicles and robotics.

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The company credited the 2017 federal tax cut legislation for helping support the expansion. 

Lilly, along with Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, were named this year during Senate hearings into rising insulin prices. Lilly’s Humalog’s list price was called out as a prime example of routine price hikes that limit patient access. 

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Drugmakers have responded by pushing the blame for higher prices on pharmacy benefit managers. Lilly has pointed out that while Humalog’s list has fattened by 52% over five years, its net price has shrunk 8%.

But Lilly acted to quell criticism nonetheless. In May, Lilly released its Lispro injection, a Humalog copy that at $265.20 for a five-pack of pens, is 50% cheaper than the branded drug.