Another insulin – October 2019

In the October update to the Australian PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), another insulin arrived today. Well, sort of.

The addition is Semglee, which is a “biosimilar equivalent” to Lantus. Like Lantus it’s insulin glargine.

Lantus is one of the commonly-used long-acting (or “basal”) insulin used for daily injections. It’s been around for years (I used it for years before I used an insulin pump). It’s old enough that Sanofi’s patent has expired, and other companies are making the same (or at least “equivalent”) product. This is of course one of the factors behind Sanofi’s development of Toujeo (U300 insulin glargine) which I wrote about last April when it was added to the PBS. The increased density of Toujeo actually makes it behave differently to the U100 Lantus/Semglee versions.

Semglee isn’t really new: it got TGA approval early last year. But now it’s subsidised through PBS to the same cost as Lantus (and available in 3ml disposable pens).

Semglee (from Mylan) isn’t the first biosimilar insulin glargine. Lilly’s Basaglar received Australian TGA approval in 2014, but Semglee is the one that’s finally got onto the PBS.

How will this affect us?

It’s not clear to me at the moment. The cost of a PBS prescription is the same for both Lantus and Semglee, and it looks like the underlying cost of the drug is similar. Note that these insulins are used for T2 diabetes as well as T1. We’ll see over time how many people end up using Semglee instead of Lantus.

Meanwhile if your doctor talks to you about Semglee, it’s basically just another brand equivalent to Lantus.

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