(Reuters) – Arkansas’s attorney general on Wednesday accused drugmakers and pharmacy benefit managers of colluding to drive up the price of insulin drugs, the latest in a series of lawsuits to take aim at skyrocketing insulin costs.
The lawsuit, filed in Pulaski County, Arkansas state court, targets Eli Lilly and Co, Novo Nordisk A/S and Sanofi SA, which together make the vast majority of the insulin drugs sold in the United States.
It also names the nation’s leading pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) – UnitedHealth Group Inc subsidiary Optum Inc, CVS Health Corp’s CVS Caremark and Cigna Corp’s Express Scripts. PBMs maintain the lists of drugs covered by health insurance plans and negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.
The defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the United States with diabetes use insulin drugs to control their blood sugar, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Prices of top-selling insulin products have soared in recent years. According to a 2021 Congressional report, Eli Lilly had raised the price of its Humalog 1,219% per vial since it launched, Novo Nordisk raised the price of NovoLog 627% since launch and Sanofi has raised the price of Lantus 715%.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in Wednesday’s lawsuit said that the PBMs, rather than negotiating lower prices on behalf of patients, have accepted higher prices in exchange for generous rebates from the drugmakers in order to enrich themselves, violating an Arkansas law against deceptive business practices.
At a press conference watched by Reuters via web stream, Rutledge said 50,000 Arkansans were uninsured and diabetic, and that many had been forced to ration insulin because of the high cost.
Similar lawsuits brought by the state of Minnesota, city of Miami and groups of drug purchasers are already pending.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
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