Michigan AG to investigate company accused of charging ‘excessive prices’ for insulin

AG Dana Nessel announces investigation into Eli Lilly and Co.

A patient draws an insulin medication into a syringe in this undated photo. (KPRC)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is launching an investigation into a drug company that manufactures insulin in the U.S. in an effort to better understand what drives the medication’s high cost.

Nessel’s office announced Wednesday an investigation into drug company Eli Lilly and Co. under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). Officials say the goal of the investigation is to uncover “the role some drug companies play in charging grossly excessive prices” of a medication that millions of Americans need, the press release reads.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11.2% of Michigan’s adult population -- about 865,000 people -- have diabetes. It is estimated that about 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, and about 7.4 million rely on insulin.

Officials say that Eli Lilly is one of three major drug companies that manufactures nearly all of the insulin in the U.S. Nessel’s investigation comes as insulin costs continue to rise for consumers.

“Nearly a million Michiganders need insulin to survive and for too long, drug companies have been skyrocketing prices,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “I support Attorney General Nessel’s efforts to use the Michigan Consumer Protection Act to put Michiganders first by investigating the role drug companies play in raising prices. I also look forward to working with legislature to cap the cost of insulin. Too many Michiganders are forced to ration insulin or forgo it, putting their lives at risk. Some families spend thousands of dollars a year on insulin and prices keep going up -- they’ve tripled from 2009 to 2019. Together, we can lower the cost of insulin, hold drug companies accountable, and save lives.”

The drug company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Nessel, the average out-of-pocket cost for one vial of insulin is nearing $100 in Michigan. Officials say that Michigan adults who have diabetes have medical expenses that are about 2.3 times higher than those who don’t have diabetes.

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The state attorney general’s investigation of Eli Lilly reportedly includes pursuing the reconsideration of two Michigan Supreme Court rulings that would “hinder the department’s ability to take action under the MCPA.”

“While drug companies profit off of people’s health, they also benefit from a current market in which they control the pricing. Enough is enough,” Nessel said Wednesday. “Our Consumer Protection Team, through our Corporate Oversight Division, is ready to devote its full resources to ensure that the proper entities are on the hook for these egregious prices, but we cannot fully protect consumers with one hand tied behind our backs. That is why this action will also pursue reconsideration of the rulings in Smith and Liss.”

Officials say the Michigan Supreme Court declined to review the 1999 ruling in Smith v. Globe Life, and the 2007 ruling in Liss v. Lewiston, when a reconsideration request was filed by Nessel in 2021. Nessel says the rulings provide a “free pass for misconduct under the MCPA, regardless of how egregious.”

Click here to see the petition for the investigation of Eli Lilly, or you can read it below.

AG Nessel is asking Michigan consumers, pharmacists and health professionals to share their experiences with high insulin costs -- you can do so by clicking here.

Read the entire petition below.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.