Beshear Probes into Skyrocketing Insulin, Prescription Drug Prices Advance

Outside legal counsel invited to bid to help state take on multibillion-dollar pharma corporations

FRANKFORT, KY. (Sept. 17, 2019) – Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today his office is moving forward with a lawsuit against three insulin makers over skyrocketing prices and an investigation into pharmacy benefit managers who have allegedly overcharged Kentuckians, local pharmacies and the state for prescription drugs. 

Two requests for proposals (RFPs) are now posted on the Commonwealth’s Vendor Self Service system, where state government solicitations are placed online. Bidders can compete to assist the Office of the Attorney General’s legal efforts on the two matters. The process is efficient for taxpayers as the winning bidders receive no upfront state tax dollars and attorneys are only paid a set portion of any monies awarded in a civil action. The deadline to bid is Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

“While Kentucky families have paid more and more for prescription drugs, these multibillion-dollar international pharmaceutical corporations have raked in billions,” Beshear said. “Today, we are another step closer to finding out if the actions of these companies resulted in Kentucky families paying too much for prescription drugs, like insulin that they depend on daily to live.”

The RFPs follow the state’s model procurement code guidelines and includes a contingency fee schedule pursuant to KRS 45A.717(3)(4), including a fee cap. The RFP outlines evaluation criteria and scope of work, which includes reviewing information and documents obtained through civil investigative demands and subpoenas and recommending legal courses of action.

Skyrocketing Insulin Prices Lawsuit

The Office of the Attorney General is seeking to further support its legal team to aggressively advance a lawsuit Beshear filed in May against Eli Lilly, Sanofi-Aventis and Novo Nordisk.

In the lawsuit, Beshear alleges that since 2008 the three defendants, who control 96% of the world’s insulin market, have increased the price of their analog insulin products at least 10 times, while the costs to make insulin have stayed low, usually less than $7 per vial. The wholesale price has jumped to nearly $300 and the price paid by those Kentuckians hit hardest by the deception can exceed $1000 a month.

Beshear said the ruthlessness of these corporations is clear when you consider that in 1922, the inventors of insulin sold their patent for just $1 so that this critical drug would be available and affordable for diabetics everywhere. 

“Kentucky ranks seventh highest in the U.S. for diabetes prevalence and I am working to get to the bottom of why insulin prices continue to skyrocket,” Beshear said. “Diabetics should not have to risk life and limb to treat a disease with what could and should be inexpensive medication.”

Through the lawsuit, Beshear is seeking to ensure the companies correct their exploitative conduct, discharge their ill-gotten gains and pay civil penalties to the state.

Inflated Prescription Drug Prices Investigation

In March, Beshear launched an investigation into pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), who control the prescription drug market for several state programs. It has been alleged that PBMs overcharged the state health insurance programs for prescription drugs and discriminated against local pharmacies.

A report released by the state earlier this year indicated two PBMs kept $123.5 million last year from the state Medicaid program by paying pharmacies a lower rate to fill prescriptions than they charged the state for the same drugs.

Beshear is investigating to see if he can recover any profits improperly retained by PBMs at the expense of the Commonwealth and its taxpayers.

Other Actions to Hold Pharmaceutical Industry Accountable, Protect Health Care

Since taking office, Beshear has fought to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable and for better, more affordable health care for all Kentucky families.

In May, Beshear joined a multistate action against 20 generic drug makers for engaging in an alleged widespread scheme to inflate and fix the price of more than 100 generic drugs. In the case, Beshear is demanding the companies pay state civil penalties and correct their conduct.

On Beshear’s website,, Kentuckians can learn about what is truly at stake in three legal cases he has joined to ensure health care and pharmacy benefits are not taken away from more than 1.3 million Kentuckians.

In August, Beshear joined 12 attorneys general in filing their final brief before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, urging the court to uphold a lower court’s decision that struck down a change to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Association Health Plan (AHP) Rule. Beshear said the rule aims to exempt AHPs from offering critical consumer health protections that the Affordable Care Act imposes on individual and small group markets. 

Matt Bevin, with a different group of state attorneys general, joined the fight against defending health care protections by filing an opposing brief in the case. Beshear says the Bevin administration’s position threatens health care coverage for Kentuckians, including people with preexisting health conditions.

Beshear is also working to hold nine opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable in Kentucky courts over their roles in fueling the state’s opioid epidemic. Last week, Beshear announced that all nine of his lawsuits against opioid makers have withstood attempts by the various companies to have the lawsuits dismissed.