Humana files suit against 37 drug makers accusing them of price fixing

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The conspiracy involving secret meetings resulted in higher prices for insurers, the government and consumers, the lawsuit claims.

Humana has brought a lawsuit against 37 pharmaceutical companies including Novartis, Mylan and Teva, alleging price fixing for numerous generic drugs.

The conspiracy increased the profits of the drug makers and others working with them at the expense of consumers, the government and private payers such as Humana, the lawsuit said.

Humana wants to recover damages it said it incurred from overcharges for certain widely-used generics, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in federal court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania.

Humana said the conspiracy is far-reaching among the drug makers to manipulate markets and obstruct generic competition. They agreed to fix, increase, stabilize and/or maintain the price of the drugs specified, along with other drugs, the court document said.

Humana accuses the pharmaceutical companies of secret meetings and communications at public and private events such as trade association meetings held by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and others.

Humana’s allegations are based on personal knowledge and information made public during ongoing government investigations, the insurer said.

The pricing fixing is also under investigation by federal and state authorities, the lawsuit said.

The Attorneys General of 47 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have filed a civil enforcement action against most of the named defendants, alleging agreements to fix 15 drug prices, the lawsuit said.

The Department of Justice has convened a grand jury to investigate a number of the defendants for price increases ranging from 100 percent to 400, 2,600 and 8,000 percent, Humana said.

The price increases are consistent with Medicare Part D price increases found by the Government Accountability Office for many of the subject drugs.

Among the drugs for which GAO identified “extraordinary price increases” — defined as a price increase of 100 percent or more — between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2015, are, according to Humana, Amitriptyline, an antidepressant; Baclofen, a muscle relaxant and anti-spastic agent; Benazepril, an ACE inhibitor to treat hypertension; Clobetasol, a steroid and anti-inflammatory agent;  Clomipramine, an antidepressant for obsessive compulsive disorder; Digoxin, used to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation; Divalproex for seizure disorders; Doxycycline (in Hyclate form) an antibiotic; Leflunomide for rheumatoid arthritis; Levothyroxine, a thyroid drug to treat hypothyroidism; Lidocaine, an anesthetic;  Nystatin, an antifungal for skin infections; Pravastatin to lower cholesterol; Propranolol, a beta blocker to treat hypertension; Ursodiol, to decrease the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver; and Verapamil, to treat hypertension, angina and certain heart rhythm disorders.


Drug Makers Accused of Fixing Prices on Insulin

A lawsuit filed Monday accused three makers of insulin of conspiring to drive up the prices of their lifesaving drugs, harming patients who were being asked to pay for a growing share of their drug bills.

The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, with the three manufacturers — Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — raising the list prices of their products in near lock step, prompting outcry from patient groups and doctors who have pointed out that the rising prices appear to have little to do with increased production costs.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Massachusetts, accuses the companies of exploiting the country’s opaque drug-pricing system in a way that benefits themselves and the intermediaries known as pharmacy benefit managers. It cites several examples of patients with diabetes who, unable to afford their insulin treatments, which can cost up to $900 a month, have resorted to injecting themselves with expired insulin or starving themselves to control their blood sugar. Some patients, the lawsuit said, intentionally allowed themselves to slip into diabetic ketoacidosis — a blood syndrome that can be fatal — to get insulin from hospital emergency rooms.

A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the price of insulin nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013.

“People who have to pay out of pocket for insulin are paying enormous prices when they shouldn’t be,” said Steve Berman, a lawyer whose firm filed the suit on behalf of patients and is seeking to have it certified as a class action.

In a statement, Sanofi said, “We strongly believe these allegations have no merit, and will defend against these claims.” Lilly said it had followed all laws, adding, “We adhere to the highest ethical standards.”

A spokesman for Novo Nordisk said the company disagreed with the allegations in the suit and would defend itself. “At Novo Nordisk,” the company’s statement said, “we have a longstanding commitment to supporting patients’ access to our medicines.”

The rising costs of drugs has led to several hearings in Congress and has drawn the attention of President Trump, who this month pledged to address the issue and said the industry was “getting away with murder.”