Insulin is a hormone produced naturally in a healthy pancreas. It helps move sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream to other parts of the body where it is used or stored. Diabetes is a condition that changes the way your body makes or uses insulin and can lead to life-threatening conditions, including blindness, heart attack, or stroke. People who have type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day, and some people with type 2 diabetes also need insulin shots.
Rising Insulin Costs Threaten Patients’ Health
While U.S. diabetes patients are allowed to import animal insulin for personal use, insulin therapy drugs sold in America are manufactured in laboratories.(1) (2) Eli Lilly and Company, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk are the three largest manufacturers of insulin therapy drugs in the U.S.
Their insulin drugs include:
- Lantus (Sanofi)
- Levemir (Novo Nordisk)
- Novolin (Novo Nordisk)
- Humalog (Eli Lilly)
In recent years, the price of insulin in the U.S. has skyrocketed, with annual per-patient spending going from $231 to $736 in just 11 years.(3) The expense has led some patients to ignore their dosing instructions and dangerously try to stretch their insulin supply to save money — a practice that can lead to serious, even life-threatening, health consequences.(4)
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“Rising insulin costs have significant financial and health impacts for the millions of Americans living with diabetes who depend on this essential, and often lifesaving, medication,” Managing Attorney Paul Novak of Weitz & Luxenberg’s Detroit office said. “Our lawsuit challenges the legality of the massive price hikes for insulin instituted by Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk.”
Weitz & Luxenberg encourages people seriously affected by the rising price of insulin to contact the firm. If you paid for insulin out of pocket any time in the last three years, call us. Weitz & Luxenberg can help you determine if you have a case.
How Much Have Insulin Prices Risen?
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016 found the price per milliliter of insulin rose 197% from 2002 to 2013. The researchers estimated that per-patient spending for insulin in 2013 was “greater than [for] all other antihyperglycemic medications combined.”(5)
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2016 found the price per milliliter of insulin rose 197% from 2002 to 2013.
Oftentimes, prices for insulin manufactured by competing companies rose in lockstep. New Jersey-based market research firm SSR Health discovered that prices of two insulin drugs — Lantus and Levemir — mirrored each other’s price hikes 12 times between 2008 and 2014.
“The two companies took price increases within days of one another, and the price increases were similar — even identical — to the percentage point,” Richard Evans, SSR Health’s founder and general manager told CBS News in February 2017.(6)
Members of Congress Call for Price-Fixing Probes
At least two members of Congress have called for a closer look at this lockstep pattern of insulin price increases.
“We are concerned that the potential coordination by these drug makers may not simply be a case of ‘shadow pricing,’ but may indicate possible collusion, and we believe this egregious behavior warrants a thorough investigation,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission seeking insulin-price investigations from both agencies in November 2016.(7)
Sen. Sanders is ranking member of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security and Rep. Cummings is the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s ranking member.
“Not only have these pharmaceutical companies raised insulin prices significantly — sometimes by double digits overnight — in many instances the prices have apparently increased in tandem,” the two members of Congress wrote in their letter.(8)
ADA: Patients Forced to Ration Insulin
“As the cost of insulin climbs, millions of Americans with diabetes are paying a steep price to stay alive,” the American Diabetes Association (ADA) wrote in a November 2016 statement. “The high cost of insulin is also impacting people with diabetes — some are forced to ration their insulin.”(9)
Dr. Irl Hirsch has presented examinations of rising insulin prices to ADA sessions in which he said rising insulin prices have cost some patients as much as $6,000 a year, even if they had insurance.(10)
“Patients can’t afford their insulin, and I’m dealing with this on a daily basis,” Dr. Hirsch told Medscape in 2016. “I have patients yelling at me as I’m walking into the examination room, even before I sit down. Many of them have had diabetes for decades, and this is the first time that they can’t afford their insulin.”(11)
The ADA has warned of a “life-threatening” practice of patients rationing insulin to save money.
The health complications could include:(12)
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
The Association’s Board of Directors issued a resolution in November 2016 calling on all parties in the insulin supply chain — including manufacturers, insurers, and pharmacies — to “substantially increase” pricing transparency and to guarantee affordable access to insulin to patients dependent upon it.(13)
Weitz & Luxenberg’s Experienced Drug Litigators
Weitz & Luxenberg has litigated complicated medical-related cases since 1986, and our Defective Drugs and Devices Unit has a track record of pursuing justice for clients harmed by SGLT2 inhibitors, another diabetes drug.
The cost increases for diabetics who rely upon insulin can be devastating when the diabetic is forced to pay out of pocket for an increasingly expensive medical necessity.
If you have purchased insulin within the last three years, Weitz & Luxenberg would like to hear from you. We will help you determine if you can seek compensation.
Call Weitz & Luxenberg at (833) 544-0604 right now or fill out our convenient contact form on this page and we will be in touch with you shortly.