Attorney General Andy Beshear | Screenshot

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced two lawsuits Monday aimed at curtailing the high costs of prescription drugs, including insulin and various generic medications.

In Franklin Circuit Court, Beshear has filed a lawsuit against three of the country’s largest insulin manufacturers — Eli Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis and Novo Nordisk — accusing them of driving up insulin prices. Sanofi told The Associated Press that it would “vigorously” fight the suit, and the other companies did not immediately comment, the article noted.

In a second case, Beshear has joined 43 attorneys general in a federal lawsuit in Connecticut asserting that Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and 19 other drug manufacturers schemed to inflate generic drug prices. Representatives of Teva and Novartis told Reuters that they intended to fight the suit.

The lawsuits are designed to stop the manufacturers’ conduct and get them to discharge their “ill-gotten gains” as well as to win civil penalties for the state, according to the attorney general’s office.

Beshear said many Kentuckians are having to choose between whether to put food on their tables, pay their power bills or spend that money on medication they need to live.

“No one should have to make those decisions,” he said. “Pharmaceutical companies have made billions upon billions at the expense of the health of our state, our nation and the health of our people.”

In the insulin lawsuit, Beshear alleges that the defendants have increased the price of their analog insulin products at least 10 times since 2008, although the cost of making insulin has stayed low at usually less than $7 per vial. Some Kentuckians are now paying more than $1,000 a month, he said.

Beshear also points to Pharmacy Benefit Managers, or PBMs, which pay a low, negotiated price while many Kentuckians, such as those who are uninsured or have a high-deductible health plan, pay the full amount or a percentage of the inflated list price, his office noted.

In the Teva lawsuit, Kentucky is part of a multi-state complaint against 20 generic drug manufacturers, including Mylan Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer, asserting that they worked to inflate and fix the price of more than 100 generic drugs, including beta blockers, antibiotics, antidepressants and others.

The complaint “marks our third lawsuit against Teva and the investigation into the industry is ongoing and expanding,” Beshear said.

The latest lawsuit alleges that employees of the drug companies conspired from July 2013 to January 2015, meeting at industry trade shows, golf outings, cocktail parties, dinners and customer events, as well as calling, texting and emailing, according to the attorney general’s office. As a result, some drug prices increased more than 1,000 percent.

“The alleged schemes outlined in this lawsuit led to increased drug prices affecting the health-insurance market, taxpayer programs like Medicaid and Medicare and Kentuckians who have paid too much,” Beshear said.

Billions in profits “were made at the expense of our Kentucky families. It is unacceptable and our coalition of attorneys general are going to stop it.”

 

Darla Carter

Darla Carter

Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.