In a recent article on Aetna’s website, the company denied responsibility for an act of negligence known as the “Lantus Diabetes lawsuit.” The plaintiff in that case, Robert L. Jordan, claimed that he had developed a chronic kidney disease (CKD) after taking Lantus insulin, a diabetes drug manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant. He subsequently lost his job and incurred substantial medical expenses.
According to Aetna, it is not responsible for the actions of its own products. That defense seems inconsistent with the company’s own advertisements. In fact, Aetna has a long history of defending its own top-selling insulin glargine product, Accuogen. In that case, the company portrayed itself as a victim of the rampant prescription drug abuse among adults. The television commercial depicted a crazed clinician giving out large doses of Accuogen to patients who didn’t need it; he was being paid by Aetna for prescribing it.
The “Lantus Diabetes lawsuit” refers to this type of scenario. In many of these cases, companies involved make it very clear that they have a responsibility to tell patients about the risks associated with their medications. Yet, diabetes care specialists continue to prescribe these powerful drugs to patients who clearly do not need them. As a result, many diabetes patients suffer unnecessarily, even when there are safer and more effective alternatives available. Aetna is simply being proactive in providing information about the risks of its top-selling insulin glargine product.
There are two main types of diabetes: Type I and Type II. Those suffering from Type I need to take a daily insulin dose. Those with Type II need a special diet and exercise plan to provide their bodies with the necessary fuel to produce insulin. Aetna has followed-on biologic therapy products that are specifically targeted to address issues related to Type I and II diabetes. These products include an insulin pump to produce supplemental insulin in an oral dosage, as well as a medication called Lantus that is used to deliver the insulin to the muscle cells where it is needed.
Aetna’s design for Lantus was controversial from the beginning. Insulin pumps that were originally intended for Type II diabetics caused many problems because, when pumping insulin, the insulin was thought to leak into the blood stream, rather than being absorbed into the muscles and tissues where it is needed. The problem was compounded when some diabetes patients began to experience adverse side effects when taking Lantus, including elevated blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. Aetna has taken steps to address this issue by developing a new type of insulin pump, the Via Medela Insulin Pump. This new device provides a steady dose of insulin, which eliminates any leaking of insulin into the blood stream. Aetna has also dropped the weight requirement for their Lantus pump product.
The lawsuit was filed by a class-action lawsuit counsel named Richard W. Frick, III, on behalf of a group of people living with type 1 diabetes. This lawsuit was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Clinical Evidence. No monetary damages have yet been awarded in the case. The plaintiffs will receive a settlement if the plaintiffs win their case. The three companies involved in the lawsuit are Merck, Novo Nordisk and J.R. Wentworth.