Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, LLP is currently litigating antitrust claims against Novo Nordisk Inc. (“Novo Nordisk”). In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Novo Nordisk, along with Eli Lilly and Company (“Eli Lilly”) and Sanofi U.S. (“Sanofi”), raised their benchmark prices of insulin by over 150% over the past decade. Further, as detailed in the complaint, the insulin price increases by each company have been mostly in lockstep.
About Insulin – Long-Acting vs. Rapid Acting
There are two types of analog insulin: long-acting and rapid-acting. Sanofi and Novo Nordisk's long-acting analog insulin, Lantus and Levemir respectively, have been produced for over ten years. Eli Lilly produces its own long-acting analog insulin, Basaglar, and Sanofi also produces a second long-acting analog insulin, Toujeo.
Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi also produce rapid-acting insulins: Novolog, Humalog, and Apidra, respectively.
Alleged Wrongful Conduct
The complaint alleges that the increased benchmark prices are the result of each of the insulin manufacturers, including Novo Nordisk, engaging in schemes with the largest national pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) to maintain a wide, but secret, spread between the reported prices of their drugs and the undisclosed prices at which they are actually sold. According to the complaint, the three most influential PBMs in the United States are Express Scripts Holdings Co., CVS Health Corp., and UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx, which control over 80% of the U.S. PBM market. The practice of publishing one price, while secretly offering another, has typically enabled drug manufacturers offering similar products to secure PBM business without significantly reducing their net prices.
The insulin manufacturers, including Novo Nordisk, have allegedly manipulated the spread to the detriment of consumers. While the insulin manufacturers and PBMs are benefitting, the benchmark price inflation schemes outlined in the complaint have victims: the patients who rely on insulin to stay alive.
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