Insulin lawsuit ruling appealed by PhRMA

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is defending a challenge to a Minnesota state law that provides free or low-cost insulin to diabetics who otherwise couldn’t afford the life-saving drug.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group filed suit after the passage of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Bill in 2020. They lost the initial round in the lawsuit in federal court last March and are now appealing that ruling.

"Here we are again trying to defend Alec’s bill against PhRMA," Nicole Smith-Holt said at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in St. Paul. The law is named after her 26-year-old son Alec who died while rationing his insulin in 2017. "We are constantly battling the pharmaceutical industry to prevent future deaths like Alec’s."

The Minnesota law was passed after insulin prices skyrocketed from as low as $21 for a vial of insulin to nearly $400 around the time the bill was passed. Under the Alec Smith bill, low-income Minnesotans can get an emergency 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 copay. Insulin manufacturers are required to participate in the programs or risk millions of dollars in fines.

“The district court had the power to strike down this unconstitutional law and should have done so," PhRMA’s Senior Director of Public Affairs Reid Porter said in a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "The Minnesota law codifies repeated constitutional violations by taking manufacturers’ private property without just compensation instead of addressing a faulty system that stands in the way of common-sense solutions known to help patients afford their insulin.”

The author of the bill in the Minnesota House says he will continue to fight to keep the law intact. "David beat Goliath and ultimately hundreds of Minnesotans are benefiting as a result," Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, said outside the courthouse. "The reason we’re here today is Goliath isn’t done fighting and neither are we."

PhRMA is appealing a federal court decision from last March that said the case should be brought in state court.