Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is the latest to file a lawsuit against the nation’s three largest insulin makers, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, Novo Nordisk, Inc., and Eli Lilly and Co. for alleged “deceptive” price hikes.
Pharma companies have been under increased scrutiny over the last few years as prices for insulin has more than doubled.
Just last month, more than 100 people protested the increasing prices for insulin outside of Eli Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., carrying signs that read “access to insulin is a human right,” and “patients over profits.”
It was the second protest at the drug maker’s headquarters– the first one prompted the company to create a diabetes helpline which was implemented this past August.
Called the Lilly Diabetes Solution Center, the helpline would assist people who need help paying for their insulin – such as those with lower incomes, the uninsured, and people in the deductible phase of their high-deductible insurance plans.
“We want to hear from people who have trouble paying for their insulin so that we can try to find a solution for them,” said Enrique Conterno, president of Lilly Diabetes and Lilly USA in a statement announcing the new initiative.
Swanson’s lawsuit states the drug makes have deceptively raised the list prices of insulin, making it less affordable to patients in high deductible health plans, the uninsured, and senior citizens on Medicare.
“Insulin is a life-or-death drug for people with diabetes. Many people can’t afford the price hikes but can’t afford to stop taking the medication either,” Swanson said in a statement.
The products included in the lawsuit include Sanofi’s Lantus, Novo Nordisk’s NovoLog, and Eli Lilly’s HumaLog, among others.
Swanson’s suit also alleges that the drug companies fraudulently set an artificially high “list” price for their insulin products but then negotiated a lower actual price by paying rebates to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).
A PBM is a company retained by a health plan to negotiate prices with drug companies and develop “formularies” of approved drugs that policyholders may take.
Sanofi and Lilly both said in separate statements they believe the case is “without merit.” And Sanofi said it will plan to “vigorously” defend against it.
Only Danish drug maker, Novo Nordisk said it was “committed to ethics and compliance in how we support patients,” and claimed to ensure that its business practices are consistent with legal and regulatory requirements.
Novo also claimed it would examine the allegations made in the complaint.
The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 16 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and seeks injunctive and monetary relief for Minnesota residents who paid out-of-pocket for their insulin. Minnesota is the first state to file a suit over insulin prices.