Insulin Price Hike Spurs Class Action Lawsuit

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On January 30, 2017, a punitive class action was filed in Massachusetts federal court alleging that major pharmaceutical companies Sanofi U.S., Novo Nordisk Inc. and Eli Lilly & Co. engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy which has caused the price of insulin to increase over 150% over the past five years. Specifically, Plaintiffs in the class allege that the pharmaceutical companies are announcing one price for the cost of insulin to the American public and then offering pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”), like CVS Health Corps and Express Scripts, a much lower price for the same product. This price gap allows PBMs to sell the diabetes drugs direct to consumers for a much higher price, turning a significant profit.

Plaintiffs in the suit accuse Defendants of starting a virtual arms race with in the insulin market, with each company trying to outbid the others in an effort to lock in purchases by PBMs. As a result of the ever-increasing list price of insulin—which has risen from around $25 per prescription to a staggering $300-$450 per refill—patients living with diabetes are forced to either put up the cash or face the deadly repercussions of leaving the disease untreated. The nine named Plaintiffs, living in MA, WA, CA, FL and GA, argue that the price hikes are imprisoning those living with diabetes. Patients who cannot afford to pay the steep price for their medications have resorted to attempts to ration insulin injections putting themselves at a very real risk of serious injuries like heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even limb amputation. Some patients are even going so far as to put themselves at risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal blood syndrome, simply so they can get free insulin from local hospitals.

 Conversely the defendant pharmaceutical companies have responded to the class accusations by vehemently refutingclaims that they are violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act through conspiracy. The defendants have stated that patient access to medication is their highest priority and each maintains that they run their businesses with the highest ethical standards possible.

The Case Is: Chaires et al v. Sanofi U.S. et al., Case No.: 1:17-cv-10158, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

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