Judge Rules in Favor of Eli Lilly on Insulin Pricing Settlement


With the judge’s failure to approve a settlement class, a $13.5 million settlement against Eli Lilly was called off.

A settlement proposed for Eli Lilly to resolve $13.5 million in claims and cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 has fallen through because US District Judge Brian Martinotti was unable to approve a settlement class. This is just another setback in the plaintiffs’ long battle, dating back to 2017, against Eli Lilly’s rising insulin prices.1

What’s the Issue?

In an attempt to establish a nationwide class for individual purchasers of Lilly’s insulin drugs, such as insulin lispro (Humalog), Judge Martinotti ruled in favor of Eli Lilly stating that “classwide issues did not predominate over individual ones,” according to Reuters.2

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This is just another setback in the plaintiffs’ long battle against Eli Lilly’s rising insulin prices. | image credit: maurice norbert / stock.adobe.com

  • The original settlement was established for Eli Lilly to recompense $13.5 million worth of claims arguing that the company inflated insulin costs for its purchasers. Most importantly, the settlement would have created a nationwide $35 monthly cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs for the next 4 years.2
  • Martinotti ruled against approval of the settlement on the grounds that a classwide issue would not automatically take priority over individual suits. His ruling is aligned with the 9 states that expressed objections to the settlements approximately a year ago. The states claimed that the settlement was a way for Lilly to protect itself from future lawsuits established by the states.1
  • Since the settlement has broken down, the plaintiffs have filed a newer version of the complaint against Lilly. Along with Eli Lilly, the original suit involved manufacturers Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Lilly said in a statement, however, that the complaint lacked merit and that the company would stand strong against plaintiffs filing suits for inflated insulin prices.2

Why It Matters

Of the 37 million Americans living with diabetes, 8.4 million rely on insulin.2 And, according to a 2020 article published in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences, the 3 companies detailed in the recently called off lawsuit—Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi—own 92% of the global market share for insulin.3 Ongoing litigation with these drug manufacturers has left patients struggling to find more affordable ways to purchase insulin.

  • Plaintiffs in cases against Lilly argue that the company is setting unreasonably high prices for their products while simultaneously paying rebates to PBMs—another major player also facing litigation in the drug-pricing realm—in exchange for coverage of the manufacturers’ drugs.2 Between PBMs and manufacturers increasing their drug prices, patients must look to litigation and government reform to address the inflating costs.
  • Despite Lilly’s promises last March to slash insulin prices and make them affordable at $25 to $35 in monthly costs, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, Massachusetts) released a survey last July that proved otherwise: The survey showed that individuals are still paying “hundreds of dollars” for insulin treatments.2 From failing litigation to Lilly’s continuous price-gauging, a nationwide end to inflated insulin prices may not be in sight.

READ MORE: Eli Lilly Slashing Insulin Prices, Capping Monthly Out of Pocket Costs For Many

Expert Commentary

  • “We see no way for us to get a settlement class approved,” Steve Berman, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told Reuters.2 He referred to Martinotti’s ruling as a “potentially big loss for consumers.”
  • “Lilly's brazen attempt to weaponize its tentative settlement against other attorneys general litigating against the company threatens the sovereign interests of states, including the intervenor states to enforce their state laws,” said lawyers from Arizona, Mississippi, and Minnesota, expressing disapproval of the nationwide action.1

In Depth Insights

Although on the surface this news may seem like another win for Big Pharma to the detriment of diabetes patients, it’s important to understand the states’ roles in recent litigations and why a nationwide class settlement is simply not realistic at the moment.

  • Martinotti ruled against the plaintiffs because “classwide issues did not predominate over individual ones.”2 Many of these individual suits have been issued at the state level. Since Eli Lilly did not add language to the recently broken settlement that would allow for states to file further claims against the company, states such as Minnesota, Arizona, and Mississippi are pleased with Martinotti’s decision. If his decision was in favor of the plaintiffs, other states’ suits against Eli Lilly would have been disrupted.1
  • Lawyers in Minnesota were recently successful in settling a suit against Eli Lilly for lower insulin costs. Lilly and the state agreed to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month and donate insulin to clinics in the state.4 Lawyers from Minnesota—along with lawyers from Arizona, Mississippi, Illinois, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, Kansas, and Montana—urged Martinotti not to approve the nationwide case in fear of it interfering with the states’ respective cases.1

Extra Reading

1. Pierson B. States cry foul at Lilly’s $13.5 mln insulin class action settlement. Reuters. August 16, 2023. Accessed April 16, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/states-cry-foul-lillys-135-mln-insulin-class-action-settlement-2023-08-16/
2. Pierson B. Eli Lilly’s nationwide insulin pricing settlement called off. Reuters. April 15, 2024. Accessed April 16, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/eli-lillys-nationwide-insulin-pricing-settlement-called-off-2024-04-15/
3. Knox R. Insulin insulated: barriers to competition and affordability in the United States insulin market. J Law Biosci. 2020;7(1). doi: 10.1093/jlb/lsaa061
4. Stempel J, Pierson B. Eli Lilly to offer low-cost insulin, donate to clinics in Minnesota settlement. Reuters. February 7, 2024. Accessed April 16, 2024. https://www.reuters.com/legal/eli-lilly-settles-minnesota-lawsuit-over-insulin-pricing-2024-02-07/
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