A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear files two additional lawsuits against drug manufacturers

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Two more lawsuits against drug manufacturers, which include allegations of overcharging for insulin, were filed Monday by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear.

One suit, filed at Franklin Circuit Court, alleges insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis and Novo Nordisk, who control 96 percent of the world’s insulin market; have increased the cost of the drug tenfold, while the costs to make it have stayed low.  Beshear said the cost is less than $7 per vial, while the wholesale price has jumped to nearly $300 and the price paid by Kentuckians can exceed $1,000 per month.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office has been one of the toughest in the country toward opioid manufacturers. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

“According to a 2017 CDC study, Kentucky has the seventh-highest rate of diabetes in the country.  And the American Diabetes Association states that approximately 560,000 Kentuckians, nearly 15.3 percent of our population, have diabetes,” Beshear said.

He noted that insulin, as a treatment for diabetes has been around since the 1920s, and its discoverers, won a Nobel Prize.   “Those developers donated the patent of their insulin drug for one dollar, because they felt it would be unethical to profit from life-saving medication and wanted everyone to have access to it. This intent has been lost in our modern pharmaceutical marketplace.”

Beshear said every Kentuckian deserves to be able to go to the doctor when they are sick, and for it not to break the bank.  

“Many have to choose whether to get their prescription or keep the lights on.  Whether to put food on the table, pay that power bill or get that necessary medicine to live.  No one should have to make that decision.”

In addition, Beshear says his office has joined 43 other state attorneys general who filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut, “alleging Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 of the nation’s generic drug manufacturers, conspired to inflate and fix the price of more than a hundred generic drugs.  This multi-state complaint marks our third lawsuit against Teva, and the investigation into the industry is ongoing and expanding.”

Fifteen senior executives at the drugmakers are also named in the lawsuit, in which Beshear alleges they “violated both state and federal anti-trust laws by orchestrating a price-fixing scheme.  The drugs include tablets, creams, beta blockers, antibiotics, anti-depressants and anti-inflammatory drugs, among others.”

Beshear says the lawsuits are seeking damages and civil penalties for their actions.

This is the third lawsuit Beshear has filed against Teva.  A first multi-state action in 2016 accused the company and 18 others, of increasing the costs of 15 generic drugs, and led to the most recent suit.  Teva was also sued in state court last year, for its alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Beshear says all nine suits against opioid manufacturers and distributors remain in progress.

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