Michigan attorney general asks to investigate Lilly for insulin pricing under state consumer protection law

As President Joe Biden scrambles to drum up support for his Build Back Better bill, which would help rein in the cost of a handful of expensive drugs, Michigan’s attorney general is taking a different approach to the issue.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that she had sought court approval to investigate Eli Lilly for charging excessive prices for his insulin. Lilly is one of three US companies, along with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, that dominate diabetes treatment sales.

Nessel asked an Ingham County judge to sanction the investigation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). But, to do so, a judge would have to override two state Supreme Court decisions, from 1999 and 2007, that bar such actions under the MCPA.

If approved, the attorney general could require Lilly to turn over documents and make company officials available for interviews.

“The average cost of a single vial of insulin is nearly $100,” Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement. “No Michigander should have to face that kind of cost for life-saving drugs. While pharmaceutical companies benefit from people’s health, they also benefit from a current market in which they control prices. Enough is enough.”

RELATED: Lawmakers blast pharma over ‘outrageous’ pricing and ‘anti-competitive conduct’ at culmination of 3-year investigation

Lilly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Nessel’s statement announcing her filing, she cites both Michigan Supreme Court decisions. Both interpreted that members of any “generally regulated” industry would be deemed exempt from the MCPA.

“These opinions have ended many consumer cases and prevented countless others from starting. Both were ill-decided,” Nessel said in his announcement.

If the court initially decides not to authorize the investigation, Nessel said his department would appeal the previous two rulings to “repair the harm.”

RELATED: Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly Cut Insulin Prices, Lose Share in Latest China Cost Squeeze

In the court filing, Nessel wrote that insulin prices range from $75 to $2,000 a month, causing many to take less than prescribed, severely restrict their diets, or opt for a less effective alternative. .

“These practices have caused severe disability and even death in some patients,” the complaint states.

Last month, a House oversight committee released a report of a three-year investigation into the pharmaceutical industry that cited “outrageous pricing” and “anti-competitive conduct.” The report argued for the passage of the Build Back Better Act.

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