Humana is suing a slew of pharmaceutical companies for allegedly fixing the prices of widely used generic drugs to boost their profits at the expense of insurers.
The Louisville, Ky.-based health insurer alleged in the lawsuit that the drug companies violated antitrust laws by conspiring to obstruct competition among generic manufacturers that would normally lead to reduced prices for those drugs.
But the manufacturers involved in the scheme, spearheaded by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, succeeded in fixing, increasing or maintaining the prices of more than 100 generic drugs listed in the lawsuit, Humana claimed. Teva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"They leveraged the culture of cronyism in the generic drug industry to avoid price erosion, increase prices for targeted products, and maintain artificially inflated prices across their respective product portfolios without triggering a 'fight to the bottom' among competitors," Humana wrote in a complaint filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Humana alleged that the drugmakers orchestrated the scheme by determining their market shares and customers among each other. They then refused to compete against each other for those customers, enabling the companies to maintain or raise drug prices.
"While different drugs may involve different competitors, this understanding remains constant and is the backbone of the industry wide conspiracy," Humana wrote in the complaint.
Humana previously sued generic-drug makers in August 2018 for price-fixing, though there were fewer drugs listed in that lawsuit as subject to the alleged scheme.
The rising cost of prescription drugs has come under scrutiny recently and drawn the attention of federal and state lawmakers. The subject will likely take center stage in the 2020 presidential election.
In late September, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a sweeping plan to lower drug costs by allowing the government to negotiate the price of hundreds of brand-name drugs—a strategy that has also been pitched by the Trump administration.
In May, attorneys general from more than 40 states filed a federal lawsuit against drug manufacturers for artificially inflating generic-drug prices.