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Attorney General Drummond sues pharmaceutical manufacturers, PBMs for insulin pricing scheme

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 14, 2024) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond has filed a lawsuit against major diabetic drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) for an unfair and deceptive pricing scheme that has cost Americans billions of dollars. 

Alleging violations of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act (OCPA), Drummond said manufacturers have significantly raised the prices of their diabetes drugs in lockstep during the last 15 years despite the fact that the costs of producing the critical drugs have diminished.

He said manufacturers and PBMs coordinated closely to control drug prices and drug purchasing behavior.

“It is despicable that these companies preyed upon Oklahomans who were desperate for life-saving medication to bolster their profits,” Drummond said. “The outrageous profits these companies obtained through deceptive business practices need to be paid back through restitution or rescission.”

Filed today in Cleveland County District Court, the lawsuit names as defendants Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc, Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, Evernorth Health Inc. (formerly Express Scripts Holding Co.), Express Scripts Inc., Express Scripts Administrators LLC, Esi Mail Pharmacy Service Inc., Express Scripts Pharmacy Inc., Medco Health Solutions Inc., CVS Health Corp., CVS Pharmacy Inc., Caremark Rx LLC, Caremarkpcs Health LLC, Caremark LLC, Unitedhealth Group Inc, Optumrx Inc. and Optuminsight Inc.

The cost for the manufacturers named in the lawsuit to produce insulin today is less than $2 per vial, according to the filing. The drugs, which sold for $20 in the late 1990s, now range between $300 and $700. In the last decade, the manufacturer defendants have hiked the price of their insulin up to 1,000 percent.

“The current unlawfully inflated price stands in stark contrast to insulin’s origins: the discoverers sold the original patent for $1 to ensure that the medication would remain affordable,” the lawsuit states. “Today, insulin has become the poster child for skyrocketing and inflated drug prices.”

Oklahoma has among the highest rates of diabetes in the nation, with 11 percent of the population – about 450,000 people – living with the disease. More than 1.6 million additional Oklahomans have prediabetes. 

“As a direct result of the Insulin Pricing Scheme, one in four Oklahoma diabetics can no longer afford their diabetes medication and are forced to ration and skip doses,” according to the lawsuit. “This forced lack of adherence leads to substantial additional healthcare costs.”

Insulin, a hormone that helps convert food into energy, is critical to controlling blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations. It is the seventh leading cause of death in Oklahoma despite the availability of effective treatments. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in Oklahoma is $6 billion annually. 

Read the petition at https://www.oag.ok.gov/sites/g/files/gmc766/f/documents/2024/2024.05.14_...