ST. PAUL, Minn. – The skyrocketing price of insulin used to treat diabetes in recent years has moved Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson to file a lawsuit against three major pharmaceutical companies.
The lawsuit alleges that the drug companiesâ€”Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC; Novo Nordisk, Inc.; and Eli Lilly and Co. -deceptively raised the list prices of insulin, making it less affordable to patients in high deductible health plans, the uninsured, and senior citizens struggling on Medicare. Swanson’s office maintains the list price of some insulin products has more than doubled since 2011 and tripled since 2002.
â€śInsulin is a life-or-death drug for people with diabetes,” Swanson said in a released statement. “Many people canâ€™t afford the price hikes but canâ€™t afford to stop taking the medication either.â€ť
The lawsuit lawsuit alleges that the drug companies fraudulently set an artificially high â€ślistâ€ť price for their insulin products but then negotiated a lower actual price by paying rebates to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). It alleges that patients who belong to health plans generally get the insulin at a lower, retail price, while patients who have no insurance or are underinsured pay the full list price when they have far less resources to do so.
The products included in the AG’s lawsuit include Sanofiâ€™s Lantus, Novo Nordiskâ€™s NovoLog, and Eli Lillyâ€™s HumaLog, among others.
The insulin products involved in the lawsuit generate significant revenue for the drug companies. Swanson’s office says in 2016 the drug companies made more than $14 billion in sales of the five most common insulin products named in the lawsuit.
Nearly 10 percent of Minnesota residents have diabetes, which is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetics who donâ€™t take their insulin may face kidney damage, heart attacks, nerve damage, and ketoacidosis.
The original patent for insulin was sold for $1 in 1922 because the inventors wanted the drug to be widely available. Some patients now skip or ration their insulin because of the high costs, which can lead to more expensive health complications or even death.
The lawsuit was filed today in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and seeks relief for Minnesota residents who paid out-of-pocket for their insulin.
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