Ellison announces low-cost insulin for all Minnesotans
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a major development in the state’s fight against three big insulin manufacturers on Wednesday.
Ellison, as well as Nicole Smith-Holt, whose son, Alec Smith, died back in 2017 after he was forced to ration his insulin because of the high cost, made the announcement.
For the next five years in Minnesota, insulin from the manufacturer Eli Lilly will be capped at $35 per month, with or without insurance.
As a part of the settlement, Eli Lilly will also donate free insulin to 15 clinics across Minnesota for five years, according to Ellison.
In 2018, Minnesota was among several states to file a lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies for overcharging for insulin. Wednesday’s announcement marked the end of Minnesota’s lawsuit with Eli Lilly, while the lawsuits against insulin manufacturers Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC and Novo Nordisk, Inc. are ongoing.
For more information on how to get Eli Lilly insulin products, visit MNinsulin35.org.
In honor of Nicole’s son, the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was drafted and passed in the state back in 2020. It caps a one-month insulin supply for a co-pay of $35. There’s also a long-term program for a 90-day supply for $50.
Although lawmakers say the legislation helps hundreds in the state, not everyone has been supportive of it.
The three drug companies filed lawsuits against Minnesota, calling Alec’s Act a violation of the constitution, alleging the state is taking property from drug companies without paying them for it.
The Minnesota Department of Health estimates around 160,000 Minnesotans rely on insulin, which is why Minnesota joined the 2018 lawsuit against the major insulin makers, looking to prevent the companies from creating misleading prices for the drug, as well as to collect damages for Minnesota residents.
“People who have insulin deficiency or type one diabetes simply cannot live without this medication,” said Dr. Laura LaFave, a physician with Hennepin Healthcare.
For years now, including following the 2020 legislation passing, Dr. LaFave says she continues to see people and families struggle to afford insulin.
“I think that [some] struggles come in due to other barriers that people may face in terms of accessing that capped price,” Dr. LaFave said.
“For example, it still requires a prescription,” she added. “Particularly if they are already having issues with unstable housing, with food insecurity, perhaps with transportation, with employment, with things that might make it difficult for them to have access to the health care system.”
Which is why she’s particularly excited for the insulin that will be available at no cost.
“It’s a really terrible thing to end up in the hospital, you know, significantly ill from not being able to take insulin,” LaFave said.
“They have to have insulin to live. If they don’t get insulin on a daily basis, they will die,” said Dr. Elizabeth Seaquist, an endocrinologist with the University of Minnesota’s Medical School.
“We’re not going to give up. The advocates are not going away, we’re not going to stop fighting,” said Nicole Smith-Holt.