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Kentucky AG accuses 3 big drug manufacturers of driving up insulin prices

jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Saying drug prices are out of control, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Monday in Franklin Circuit Court three large insulin manufacturers for allegedly driving up insulin prices.

“It is not moral, it is not ethical and it is illegal what these companies have done,” Beshear said at a Capitol news conference announcing the lawsuit against Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk.

Beshear also announced he has joined 43 attorneys general in a federal lawsuit filed in Connecticut targeting Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 other drug manufacturers for allegedly inflating generic drug prices.

In both cases, Beshear is demanding the companies, which he said have made billions of dollars from inflation of their drug prices, to “correct their exploitative conduct, discharge their ill-gotten gains and pay civil penalties to the states.”

Most of the companies could not be immediately contacted and some did not immediately respond for comment. A spokeswoman for Sanofi said the company will “vigorously defend” against the “meritless lawsuit.”

She also said any patients with questions should call toll-free 888-847-4877.

Beshear had no sympathy for the companies.

“It is truly heartbreaking that Kentuckians are suffering, sometimes risking life and limb, because they cannot afford their medications,” he said.

“The outrageous actions of these drug companies is a big reason we all pay too much for prescription drugs and I am insisting they pay up for putting profits ahead of our Kentucky families.”

In the insulin lawsuit, Beshear claims that the three defendants, which control 96 percent of the world’s insulin market, have since 2008 increased the price of their insulin products at least 10 times, while the costs to make insulin have stayed low, less than $7 per vial.

Insulin is used to control diabetes. Kentucky has the seventh highest rate of diabetes in the nation. More than 15 percent of Kentuckians have diabetes, and every year an additional 135,000 new cases are diagnosed in the state.

Beshear alleged that Kentuckians without insurance or on high-deductible plans, Medicare Part D recipients and those who pay co-insurance are hurt most because they have to pay the full amount or a percentage of the artificially inflated list price of the drug.

Beshear, who is running for governor in next week’s Democratic primary election, also has nine lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for allegedly flooding Kentucky communities with addictive prescription drugs. Those suits are pending in various circuit courts across the state.

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