Accomack County wants justice for unfair insulin costs

By Linda Cicoira

Counsel to Accomack’s supervisory board filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, seeking an unspecified amount of money for damages he says were caused when several makers of prescription drugs and benefit managers began plotting twenty years ago to overprice insulin.

More than 13 percent of the county’s adult population has diabetes and requires medication. The lawsuit says the price of insulin has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, with costs increasing by 1,000 percent, exponentially above inflation rates.

The suit names Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk Inc., Sanofi-Aventis US 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 law; violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, committed civil conspiracy; and received unlawful enrichments for their actions.

“Much of this dramatic increase is due to the structure of the retail drug market, particularly the role of pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, who, in theory, negotiate with manufacturers to reduce drug costs,” indicates the file. “However, PBMs tend to favor drugs that offer higher discounts to manufacturers over similar, lower-cost drugs. As a result, insulin users and those who pay their insurance costs, such as local governments like Accomack County, bear the brunt of this market failure.

In recent years, Congress investigated the rising price of insulin and found that manufacturers were acting in concert to raise their prices simultaneously, thereby keeping prices artificially inflated, the county alleged.

Accomack seeks injunctive relief, restitution, restitution, damages, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and costs, and all other relief available to remedy and mitigate the harm caused.

The city of Portsmouth also filed suit against the companies. In both cases, jury trials are requested. The lawsuits were filed by Chap Petersen & Associates of Fairfax and the Finnell Firm of Rome, Georgia.