Beshear: Stopping Skyrocketing Insulin Prices

Andy Beshear

The nearly 600,000 Kentuckians suffering from diabetes must be able to afford their daily supply of insulin to stay alive.

With the price of insulin tripling over the past nearly 20 years, many of us have heard the alarming stories about diabetics rationing insulin, using inferior insulin or even bypassing treatment. These practices are dangerous. They can even be deadly.

At a recent public meeting in Frankfort, one Kentucky woman said she could not afford insulin for years. As a result, she developed other diabetes-related chronic diseases, one causing the loss of her leg below the knee. She called pricing insulin at such sky-high amounts “nothing short of premeditated murder,” and wondered if she would “make it another five years.”

Her story is heartbreaking and many like her suffer through similar circumstances, all while three pharmaceutical companies that control 96% of the world’s insulin market – Eli Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis and Novo Nordisk – rake in billions.

It is simply wrong that these companies pay between $2.28 and $6.34 to manufacture a single vial of insulin while the average wholesale price is around $300 for that same vial.

In May, I had had enough of the deception. I filed a lawsuit to hold these companies accountable for the unconscionableoverpricing of insulin products that led to unwarranted and drastic prices increases.

From December 2010 to January 2019, Sanofi’s insulin for injection increased in price 311%, with another insulin for injection drug increasing 285% in the same period.

Eli Lilly’s drug increased from $235 per package in November 2011 to $530 in May 2017.

A drug sold by Novo Nordisk more than doubled in price, from $255 per package in July 2012 to $558 in July 2018, without any significant change to the product.

While these companies worked to increase bottom lines and maintain market shares, Kentucky families hit hardest by this price gouging could be paying more than $1,000 a month for insulin just to stay alive.

The ruthlessness of these corporations is clear when you consider that in 1922, the inventors of insulin sold their patent for just $1 so that this critical drug would be available and affordable for diabetics everywhere. 

Diabetics should not have to risk life and limb to treat a disease with what could and should be inexpensive medication.

Diabetes is a public health epidemic in Kentucky and many here are in need.

We rank the seventh highest in the U.S. for diabetes prevalence. It is estimated that an additional 108,000 Kentuckians have the disease and do not know it. Doctors will newly diagnose about 135,000 of our friends and family members next year. An astonishing 1.1 million Kentuckians have prediabetes. Additionally, medical expenses related to this disease total $3.6 billion for Kentuckians annually.

While I am pursing these companies for violating state and federal laws, the governor and his administration are trying to stop me. They have refused my request to allow the Commonwealth to efficiently hire additional legal counsel to help us fight back against these multibillion international pharmaceutical corporations.

The governor is also stalling my request to seek legal assistance to investigate companies that have allegedly overcharged the state’s Medicaid program and local Kentucky pharmacies for many prescription drugs, including insulin.

These types of requests are common for the Office of the Attorney General, and other state attorneys general when pursuing complex litigation against such massive, well-funded companies.

While the governor continues to side with drug companies, I will not stop working for Kentucky families. More, not less, needs to be done to stop skyrocketing drug prices.

Kentuckians must come before pharmaceutical company profits and you deserve nothing less. – Attorney General Andy Beshear

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