Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi face new lawsuit from Arkansas attorney general over insulin prices

Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk are no strangers to insulin pricing lawsuits. The latest comes from the state of Arkansas, which is suing the insulin giants and top pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for allegedly driving up the cost of the key medicine.

In the lawsuit, Arkansas' attorney general Leslie Rutledge said the drugmakers conspired with the PBMs to drive up the costs of insulin to increase revenues, making the treatments unaffordable for diabetics in her state. The lawsuit claims violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy. Rutledge is seeking damages, civil penalties and more.

Thousands of Arkansans rely on insulin every day to “live their best life,” and high prices only line the companies’ pockets, Rutledge said in a statement.

“Today we begin the fight to stop this outrageous inflation of insulin pricing,” Rutledge added.

Arkansas is home to more than 400,000 people who have been diagnosed with diabetes, plus more than 800,000 who are pre-diabetic. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death in the state and the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations.

Over the course of the last 15 years, the drug companies "have in lockstep raised the prices of their respective diabetes drugs in an astounding manner, even though the cost to produce these drugs has decreased during that same time period,” the lawsuit states. Nothing about the medications has changed aside from the price, the suit says.

Eli Lilly said in a statement that the company is “disappointed by inaccurate claims” made by Arkansas’ attorney general.

“These claims are particularly surprising given the multiple affordability solutions that Lilly offers—where anyone is eligible to purchase their monthly prescription of Lilly insulin for $35 or less,” a spokesperson said. 

Novo Nordisk and Sanofi have also rolled out affordability programs for their insulins in recent years. The companies did not reply to requests for comment by the time of publication.

The Arkansas lawsuit is one of many targeting the companies for their insulin prices. In January, Michigan's attorney general started a probe of Lilly's pricing practices.