The California Department of Justice is suing drug companies over high insulin costs

The California Department of Justice is suing drug companies over high insulin costs

  • US News
  • January 13, 2023
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?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2F6d%2F2e%2F24e3dc304d44a2f7afae5165496a%2F1162432 me rob bonta gem 017 News For Everyone Zoohouse News

The California Department of Justice is suing three of the country’s largest insulin makers over the high cost of the drug, which diabetics need to survive.

At a Thursday news conference announcing the lawsuit against Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, California Atty. General Rob Bonta said the companies would find ways to “aggressively raise” the price of insulin at the expense of many patients.

The lawsuit, filed under the state’s unfair competition statute, also includes pharmacy services administrators CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx as defendants. The companies act as intermediaries between insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

“No company is too big to avoid the law or too big to be held accountable,” Bonta said. “Big Pharma may negotiate drug prices, but as your Attorney General, let me be absolutely clear. Under my supervision, the health and welfare of Californians is non-negotiable.”

Arkansas, Kansas and Mississippi have filed similar lawsuits against the three insulin manufacturers and some administrators of pharmacy benefits. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last year that the state plans to manufacture its own insulin and offer it at below-market prices.

In its lawsuit, the state seeks remedies, including banning companies from overcharging patients and refunding Californians who overpaid for insulin.

Bonta said he hopes the lawsuit will help push the price of insulin “much closer to the cost of production.”

A report from Rand Corp. from 2020 found that the average manufacturer’s list price for a standard unit of insulin in the US was $98.70. In Canada, the manufacturer price averaged $12 and in the UK, it averaged $7.52.

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Eli Lilly said the company is “disappointed by the California Attorney General’s false allegations.”

Patients can purchase a monthly supply of insulin from Eli Lilly for $35 or less even if they don’t have insurance, spokeswoman Daphne Dorsey said. She added that “the average monthly out-of-pocket cost of Lilly insulin is $21.80, down 44 percent over the past five years.”

Anyone paying more than $35 a month can call the company’s Diabetes Solution Center or go to insulinaffordability.com, Dorsey said.

Phil Blando, a spokesman for CVS Caremark, said in an emailed statement that “pharmaceutical companies alone set the list price for their products.”

“Claims that we have a role in setting the prices manufacturers charge are false,” Blando said. “We plan to vigorously defend ourselves against this complaint.”

Isaac Sorensen, a spokesman for Optum Rx, said in an emailed statement that pharmacy benefit managers are working to reduce drug costs and that the company “welcomes the opportunity to show the California Attorney General’s office as well as others.” [states’] Attorneys General, how we work every day to give people access to affordable medicines, including insulin.”

Nationwide, about 34 million people suffer from diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5 to 10% have type 1 diabetes and need insulin to control their blood sugar levels.

CDC advice for patients includes asking a doctor about a generic version of insulin and contacting drug companies about patient assistance programs.

Some people who cannot afford insulin take smaller doses than prescribed or buy it on the black market.

Kevin Wren, the outreach lead for the California chapter of #Insulin4All, said he often helps people find insulin so they don’t have to ration.

“I’ve had ketoacidosis, I’ve been hospitalized, I’ve had complications, all because I’m rationing my insulin,” Wren said. “This must not happen.”

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