Michigan AG seeks to probe Eli Lilly for high insulin prices

More than one in five people with diabetes nationally depends on insulin products

Michigan's attorney general said Wednesday she sought court approval to investigate Eli Lilly and Co., accusing the drugmaker of charging excessive prices for insulin medications used to treat diabetes.

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Dana Nessel's filings, submitted Tuesday, asked an Ingham County judge to authorize a probe under the state consumer protection law, including the use of subpoenas to get records and to interview company officials. Because Eli Lily likely will say the law does not cover drug pricing under state Supreme Court rulings, the petitions requested a judgment saying exceptions to the law do not apply in this case.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel ((Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press / Reuters Photos)

"The average out-of-pocket cost of a single vial of insulin is nearly $100," Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement. "No Michigander should have to face that kind of cost for life-saving medicine."

She said the department will appeal if the investigation is not allowed. The filings said the 1999 and 2007 high court decisions were wrongly decided and "have served to end many consumer cases, and have prevented countless others from ever beginning."

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Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly, one of three primary U.S. insulin manufacturers, said in a statement that it was "deeply disappointed by the false accusations and inaccurate claims" made by the attorney general.

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"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, regardless of the number of pens or vials, whether they are uninsured or use commercial insurance, Medicaid, or a participating Medicare Part D plan," spokesperson Kristiane Bello said.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that about 865,000 Michigan residents, 11% of the adult population, have been diagnosed with the disease. More than one in five people with diabetes nationally depends on insulin products.

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LLY ELI LILLY & CO. 313.47 +6.40 +2.08%

Prices range from $75 to $2,000 monthly depending on individual requirements and insurance coverage. U.S. prices are more than eight times higher than in 32 high-income comparison nations combined, according to researchers at the think tank Rand Corp.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted insulin costs in her State of the State address Wednesday night, noting Nessel's action and getting behind bipartisan House-passed legislation that would cap an insured person's cost at $50 a month.

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"Lilly welcomes systemic solutions and new public policies, such as copay caps on insulins like the one Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed, which could bring much-needed relief to people who face higher out-of-pocket costs for their medications," Bello said. "Until actual reforms fill these gaps, Lilly remains firmly committed to providing affordability solutions to people who need them."