Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Lilly named in patients’ price fixing suit

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By Erica Teichert | NEW YORK

NEW YORK Three of the biggest makers of diabetes
treatments, Sanofi SA, Novo Nordisk and Eli
Lilly & Co, were named in a proposed class action
lawsuit by a group of patients alleging price-fixing.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in a federal court in
Massachusetts, said the companies simultaneously hiked the price
of insulin by over 150 percent during the past five years.

The twelve named plaintiffs, residents of Georgia, Florida,
California and Massachusetts who have diabetes, claim Sanofi,
Novo Nordisk and Lilly raised their public benchmark price for
insulin products while maintaining a lower “true” price they
charged large pharmacy benefit managers like Express Scripts,
CVS Health and OptumRX.

The PBMs act as intermediaries with health insurers and keep
a percentage of the price difference, according to the lawsuit.

Ashleigh Koss, a spokeswoman for Sanofi said: “We strongly
believe these allegations have no merit, and will defend against
these claims.”

Eli Lilly spokesman Greg Kueterman declined to comment on
the lawsuit but said the company complied with all applicable
laws and adhered to the highest ethical standards.

Ken Inchausti, a spokesman for Novo Nordisk, said the
company disagreed with the complaint’s characterization of the
pharmaceutical supply chain and noted its commitment to
patients’ access to medicine.

The plaintiffs claim the alleged price-fixing scheme caused
them to overpay for insulin. According to the lawsuit, some
skipped meals or underdosed their insulin because they could not
afford treatment otherwise. Others intentionally experienced
severe diabetic complications to obtain insulin samples from
emergency rooms, the complaint said.

Uninsured patients and those on high-deductible plans are
particularly affected by rising insulin prices, plaintiffs said.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, alleged
violations of the federal racketeering statute, which allows for
triple damages, as well as consumer protection laws in virtually
every state.

In November, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland asked federal
antitrust regulators to investigate possible insulin price
collusion by Sanofi, Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Merck & Co Inc. No
probe has been announced.

Lilly said in December it would provide some patients with
up to 40 percent discounts on insulin products via its
partnership with Express Scripts Holding Co.

Shares in the three companies fell, Lilly down 1 percent at
$74.60, while U.S. listed shares of Novo Nordisk were
off 0.4 percent at $35.62 and Sanofi recovered a bit to
trade up 0.4 percent at $40.02.

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