The class-action lawsuit filed six years ago against drugmaker Eli Lilly alleging systematic overpricing of insulin has ended with the company agreeing to pay a $13.5 million settlement and to continue its cap on users’ out-of-pocket costs for four years.
Under the settlement, those unable to qualify for the $35-a-month cap – people who no longer use Eli Lilly insulin or those now enrolled in the Medicare and Medicaid programs – may tap into the $13.5 million fund, which is also being used to pay administration costs and fees for the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
About 7 million Americans use insulin daily to treat their diabetes, but the prices of the four most popular types have tripled over the past decade, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Attorneys for the insulin buyers said some users gave accounts of resorting to extreme measures to afford insulin, including starving themselves to control their blood sugar levels and intentionally slipping into ketoacidosis, a serious complication of diabetes, to receive insulin from hospital emergency rooms. A 2022 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated 1.3 million Americans ration their insulin because of the cost.
“We are incredibly pleased to culminate this important case and over six years of hard-fought litigation on behalf of millions of individuals who rely on insulin every day,” said James Cecchi, of the firm Carella Byrne, who served as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The settlement still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
“The settlement contains no admission of liability or wrongdoing by Lilly,” a company spokesperson said, adding that “the agreement is a reflection of our continued commitment to close gaps in the U.S. health-care system for people with diabetes.”
In March, Eli Lilly announced that it was cutting the price of its commonly prescribed insulin by 70 percent.
The class covered by the lawsuit includes “anyone in the U.S. who paid any portion of the purchase price for any Lilly insulin product, for themselves or on behalf of any family member of dependent” from Jan. 1, 2009, up to the final approval order for the settlement. Under the agreement, eligible insulin buyers would be able to obtain and file claims forms on the settlement website.
Upon preliminary approval of the settlement, attorneys for the plaintiffs plan to serve subpoenas to the six largest pharmacy benefit managers and the seven largest retail pharmacy chains in the United States to gather the “transactional data” that will be used to verify settlement claims.
Between the $13.5 million settlement and the four-year cap, “our experts calculate that this will save these consumers $500 million in payments for their insulin over the four-year period,” said Steve Berman, the court-appointed co-lead counsel for the insulin buyers in the lawsuit.