91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Local governments in SE MI file lawsuits over insulin prices, accuse drug makers of price-fixing

Close up of man with diabetes using insuline glucometer with blood from the finger
Adobe Stock
Close up of man with diabetes using insuline glucometer with blood from the finger

Four Michigan counties and the city Detroit said Wednesday that they plan to sue three major pharmaceutical companies and the companies that set drug prices for major pharmacy chains over the price of insulin.

The municipalities say those companies — which include Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and CVS Caremark — violate anti-trust, racketeering, and other federal laws by colluding to inflate insulin’s price. The cost of the drug needed by people with diabetes has soared some 1,500% over the past 20 years in the U.S. Government officials said the result is a life-saving drug that’s unaffordable for too many people, and local governments facing additional health insurance costs.

Mark Bernstein, an attorney representing the municipalities, said the lawsuits have two main goals. “One, that these defendants right here stop their disgraceful price gouging conduct,” he said. “And two, these plaintiffs, these municipalities just simply want their money back.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said cities and counties want to recoup those costs, and help diabetic residents now forced to ration their insulin. “I'm not looking for a check for the city of Detroit,” he said. “I'm looking for a settlement that allows all residents to be able to afford that treatment.”

These are the first lawsuits filed in Michigan over insulin prices, but other states and local governments have filed similar ones in recent years. Just this week, drugmaker Eli Lilly reached a settlement with the state of Minnesota over price-fixing allegations. The company said the settlement "builds on our longstanding and industry leading efforts to close gaps in the U.S. healthcare system and expand access to affordable insulin."

Novo Nordisk said it has recently reduced the price of its insulin offerings, and that the company will vigorously defend itself against meritless claims in the Michigan lawsuits.

Pharmaceutical companies generally claim that soaring insulin prices are related to research and development into more refined insulin products, though many health care experts say that explanation simply doesn’t hold up.

Wayne, Washtenaw, Macomb, and Monroe counties have already filed their lawsuits in a New Jersey federal court. Duggan said he wants to join them, but needs Detroit City Council approval first.

Nearly a million people in Michigan have diagnosed diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. And the condition can strike at different times in life, most notably during pregnancy, something Detroit Health Department director Denise Fair has experience with.

“So I do understand how important this lifesaving drug [insulin] is, not only for me, but also for my community,” Fair said. “My son turned nine months today, and I know that if I did not have access to insulin, there could have been major problems during my delivery.

“We need to ensure that all individuals, regardless of socioeconomic status, can have access to this much-needed medication, and meet them where they are so that they can manage their diabetes.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
Related Content