ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) — Utah is suing multiple insulin manufacturers over an alleged scheme to inflate the price of the medication for the sake of profits, according to a press release.

The Utah Attorney General and the Utah Department of Commerce filed a lawsuit Thursday against insulin manufacturers Eli Lilly, Novo, Nordisk, and Sanofi, as well as pharmacy benefits managers (PBM) CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx, for their involvement in an alleged insulin pricing scheme that the state said “has harmed hundreds of thousands of Utah diabetics and their families,” according to the release.

The lawsuit alleges that these manufacturers and PBMs colluded to inflate the price of these medications up to 1,000% over the last 10 years. The PBMs reportedly used their “significant leverage in the pharmaceutical pricing chain” to increase profits instead of lowering prices for consumers, according to the release.

Courtesy of Utah Attorney General’s Office

The manufacturers are also accused of raising the reported prices of diabetes medication, “only to deceptively refund a significant portion back to PBMs through rebates, discounts, credits, and administration fees,” the release states.

“Access to affordable insulin is, literally, a life-or-death issue. But, insulin makers and PBMs value billions in profits over the lives and well-being of Utahns. The markups and margins on insulin are unconscionable,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “Unrestrained greed cannot be allowed to direct our healthcare outcomes. This is one of the most egregious cases of avarice and inhumanity I have ever seen. It not only violates the law, but is morally repugnant, too.”  

Officials said the alleged scheme forced patients to pay artificially high prices for their medication, reportedly reaping record profits. “Patients with diabetes have collectively been overcharged millions of dollars a year for medication that is expensive only because the defendants know they can extract money from patients who would die without it,” the release states.

Some 200,000 Utahns, which amounts to around eight percent of the adult population, reportedly suffer from diabetes, and an additional 700,000 have pre-diabetes. This lawsuit alleges the total estimated cost after diabetes diagnosis to be $1.7 billion per year — and that’s just in Utah.

State officials said one in every four dollars in healthcare is spent caring for diabetes patients.

“This pricing scheme is not only appalling, it’s also unlawful,” said Margaret Woolley Busse, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “We’ll do everything in our power to hold these companies accountable for their unconscionable actions and for the damage they have caused to Utahns who rely on insulin for survival.”

The Utah Attorney General said that the excessive price of insulin and the prevalence of the disease have “historically led to dangerous patient practices.”

Perhaps the most heartbreaking result of the alleged practice meant that Utah patients have reported rationing or underdosing insulin, injecting expired insulin, or even reusing needles, according to the attorney general’s office.

If you’ve been affected by insulin costs, the Division of Consumer Protection is inviting you to share your experience here. Your input reportedly could be used in this legal action.