Sacramento. — California announced Thursday that it will sue the companies that make and market most of the country’s insulin, accusing them of conspiring to illegally increase the price of the drug and demanding they return millions of dollars to some diabetics who state officials say overcharged them. for the medicine they must have to survive.
The lawsuit, which will be filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Attorney General Rob Bonta, is the latest in a parade of legal actions against these state-owned companies from across the political spectrum, all of whom have accused the giants. corporations from abusing their power to stifle competition and increase their profits by keeping the price of insulin high.
A 2021 study by the RAND Corporation that compared insulin prices from nearly three dozen countries found that prices in the United States were about 10 times higher than anywhere else. The average price of a vial of insulin in the United States was $98, while in nearby Canada it was $12.
President Biden signed the Reduce Inflation Act that will help Americans across the country and allow people to get much cheaper insulin. The new law will have a great impact on the Latino community.
Lawsuits in other states
The attorneys general of Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Minnesota and Kentucky have filed similar lawsuits in recent years.
“It’s not a partisan issue,” said Bonta, a Democrat who was elected to his first full term in November. Bonta said state attorneys general from both major political parties are “saying the same thing: that the status quo is unacceptable, problematic and horrible.”
Bonta sued three companies that make insulin: Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, and three companies that run prescription drug programs that provide insulin: CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Optum Rx.
Bonta said manufacturers are raising the price of insulin “at the same time.” Prescription drug managers then negotiate with manufacturers to get a percentage of that price in exchange for prominently promoting their high-priced insulin over cheaper alternatives.
“People are losing their lives because they can’t afford the medicine,” Bonta said.
Daphne Dorsey, Eli Lilly’s associate director of media relations, said the company is “disappointed by the false allegations from the California attorney general.” She said the average monthly out-of-pocket cost for Lilly insulin is $21.80, a 44% decrease over the past five years. She urged anyone paying more than $35 a month for Lilly insulin to contact the company.
Insulin will cost around $73 for a vial and $86 for a pack of prefilled insulin cartridges.
A representative for Novo Nordisk declined to comment on the lawsuit. But the company provided background information that says the net prices of its insulin products (list price minus rebates and discounts) have fallen in each of the past five years “in large part due to significant rebates and discounts.” that manufacturers pay to guarantee patient access”.
Mike DeAngelis, executive director of corporate communications for CVS Health, said only manufacturers set the list price for their products.
“Nothing in our agreements prevents drug manufacturers from lowering the prices of their insulin products and we would welcome such action,” he said. “The accusations that we play any role in determining the prices that manufacturers charge are false. We plan to vigorously defend ourselves against this complaint.”
A statement from Optum Rx said the company “welcomes the opportunity to show the California Attorney General’s Office, as it has done with other State Attorneys General, how we work every day to give people access to affordable medicines, including insulin.”
“Everything so they don’t have to ration.”
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is used by the human body to convert the food we eat into energy. People who have diabetes do not make enough insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every day to survive.
A team of Canadian scientists discovered insulin a century ago. They sold the patent to the University of Toronto for just $1, hoping to avoid a monopoly that could cause high prices. But eventually, the market came to be dominated by just three companies.
The US is one of the developed countries with the highest prices for medicines.
Kevin Wren, an activist associated with the California chapter of #Insulin4All, said he must take insulin every day to survive. Around 2009, Wren said he worked two jobs and had no health insurance. He had to ration his insulin, taking less than the recommended dose to make it last longer, a dangerous practice that he said ended up sending him to the hospital with ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes.
Today, Wren says she has good health insurance and doesn’t have to ration her insulin supply. He said he circumvents the law every month by giving people insulin prescribed by someone else “all so they don’t have to ration.”
Large insulin manufacturing companies have assistance programs to help people buy insulin. Novo Nordisk said in 2021 that more than a million people used some form of company assistance when buying their insulin.
Insulin production in California
The California government is considering making your own insulin and selling it at a much cheaper price. Last year, the state Legislature approved $100 million for the project, with $50 million set aside to develop three types of insulin and the rest for a potential manufacturing plant.
State officials hope that a generic brand of insulin from California could disrupt the market and drive down all insulin prices. Bonta said he hopes his lawsuit will do the same.
“California can drive the markets,” Bonta said, citing the state’s size and economic power. “Change emanates and starts here.”