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On day Minnesota's affordable insulin law goes into effect, drug group sues to stop it

The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act goes into effect July 1.
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A group representing drug manufacturers is filing a lawsuit over Minnesota’s affordable insulin legislation, which is set to go into effect Wednesday.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHRMA) initiated a lawsuit Tuesday over the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, calling it unconstitutional. The law requires top insulin manufacturers to reimburse pharmacies for insulin costs so patients can get it at a more affordable price.

“Unfortunately, this law is unconstitutional, overlooks common sense solutions to help patients afford their insulin and, despite its claims, still allows for patients to be charged at the pharmacy for the insulin that manufacturers are required to provide for free,” a statement from PhRMA reads.

The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act failed to pass the state Legislature in 2019. After much debate, Republicans and Democrats reached a compromise in the bill’s specifics and sent the legislation to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk in April.

Under the bill, eligible individuals can go into a pharmacy once a year for an emergency 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. Some individuals are also eligible for a second emergency supply.

The bill also offers a long-term program, which allows eligible individuals 90-day supplies of insulin for up to one year. The co-pay would be no more than $50.

Insulin manufacturers must reimburse pharmacies for this program or provide replacement insulin at no cost.

“This is an incredible accomplishment. Big Pharma was defeated by the passion and tireless hard work of the advocates and legislators who got this done,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement when the bill was signed.

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PhRMA’s lawsuit lists The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and the Board of MNSure as defendants, among others. It alleges the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, meaning the state is taking private property for public use without compensation.

News of the lawsuit was roundly criticized by Democrats, with Sen. Matt Little – who was one of the leading voices on the Alec Smith bill – tweeting: "Morally bankrupt. Devoid of humanity. I will spend my entire life fighting these soulless companies. No one should get sick or die from an inability to afford life-sustaining insulin."

Walz will hold a press conference celebrating the new law Wednesday. 

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