Accomack County wants justice for unfair insulin costs

May 10, 2024

By Linda Cicoira

Legal counsel for the Accomack Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Norfolk that seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages it says were caused when several drug manufacturers and prescription benefit managers began scheming two decades ago to overprice insulin.

More than 13 percent of the county’s adult population have diabetes and need the medicine. The lawsuit states the price of insulin has soared during the past 20 years with costs climbing by 1,000 percent, exponentially above inflation rates.

The action named Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc., Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC, Evernorth Health Inc., Express Scripts Inc., Express Scripts Administrators LLC, Medco Health Solutions, ESI Mail Pharmacy Services Inc., Express Scripts Pharmacy Inc., CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy Inc., Caremark Rx LLC, Caremark PCS Health LLC, Caremark LLC, United Health Group Inc., Optum Inc., OptumRx Inc., and Optuminsight Inc.

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It alleges the companies violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO; conspired to violate the act; violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, committed civil conspiracy; and received unentitled enrichments for their acts.

“Much of this dramatic increase is driven by the structure of the retail drug market, specifically the role of the pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, who, in theory, negotiate with manufacturers to reduce the cost of drugs,” the filing stated. “However, PBMs tend to favor drugs that offer higher manufacturer rebates over similar drugs with lower costs. As a result, insulin users and the payors of their insurance costs, such as local governments like Accomack County, bear the brunt of this market failure.”

In recent years, Congress investigated the increasing price of insulin and found manufacturers acted in concert to raise their prices simultaneously, thus keeping prices artificially inflated, the county alleged.

Accomack wants injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, damages, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and all other available relief to address and abate the harm caused.

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     The City of Portsmouth has also filed suit against the companies. In both cases, jury trials are being sought. The suits were brought by Chap Petersen & Associates of Fairfax and the Finnell Firm of Rome, Georgia.

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