Eli Lilly settlement caps insulin prices for Minnesotans

Eli Lilly-Insulin Price Cuts
The Eli Lilly & Co. corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. Eli Lilly has settled a lawsuit by Minnesota that accused the three largest insulin makers of deceptively raising the price of insulin.
Darron Cummings | AP

Updated: 5:39 p.m.

A settlement between the state of Minnesota and drugmaker Eli Lilly will give Minnesotans access to insulin for $35 a month, at least for the next five years.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the settlement Wednesday morning.

“This comes not a moment too soon for so many people,” he said. “Every Minnesotan deserves affordable access to the medicines that they need to survive. We cannot lose one more person to the unconscionably high cost of lifesaving drugs. This victory for families across our state comes after many years of hard work.”

The attorney general’s office brought suit in 2018 against Eli Lilly, along with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, saying the companies were artificially inflating their drug costs.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

The Eli Lilly settlement is the first outcome of the lawsuit. The other suits are still pending.

The American Diabetes Association says more than 8 million Americans use insulin, which the body needs to convert food into energy. People who have diabetes don’t produce enough insulin.

While Lilly and other drug manufacturers have taken steps to help diabetics cover the costs of their insulin, and Minnesota adopted an emergency safety net program for diabetics in 2020, Ellison said the settlement provides better guarantees for patients that their out-of-pocket insulin costs won’t exceed $35 a month, beginning immediately.

New York last year reached a similar settlement with the big three insulin makers, Ellison said. And the attorneys general of California, Illinois, Arizona and Utah, and some local governments, have filed similar lawsuits in the last year, his office said.

President Joe Biden’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act capped out-of-pocket costs of insulin to people on Medicare to $35 a month, but only for seniors.

Lilly said in a statement that the settlement ensures that Minnesotans will have affordable access to its insulins, and that it builds on steps the company has already taken, including price cuts and caps announced last March, that have brought the average monthly out-of-pocket cost for Lilly insulin down to $20.48.

Novo Nordisk last year also announced plans for insulin price cuts starting this year.

Minnesota’s emergency program is named for Alec Smith, who died from diabetic complications in 2017 after rationing his insulin to make it last longer because of its high cost.

“During our advocacy, during our hard work, we got the insurance companies to do co-pay caps on their insurance on their insulin, we passed the Alex Smith insulin affordability act, and now we have the settlement from Eli Lilly,” Smith’s mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, said. “So there’s multiple ways for people in Minnesota to get access to affordable insulin. And it's going to save so many lives.”