Categorized | USA, Health

Big Pharma Trade Group Blasted as ‘Morally Bankrupt’ for Suing to Block Minnesota Insulin Affordability Law

The law is named for Alec Smith, an uninsured 26-year-old who died in 2017 after rationing his insulin.

by: Jessica Corbett,

James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt held a picture of their son Alec—who died in 2017 at age 26 after rationing his insulin—at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul after state representatives passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act on April 14, 2020. (Photo: John Autey/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

James Holt and Nicole Smith-Holt held a picture of their son Alec—who died in 2017 at age 26 after rationing his insulin—at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul after state representatives passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act on April 14, 2020. (Photo: John Autey/MediaNews Group/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images)

A Big Pharma trade group is under fire for filing a federal lawsuit late Tuesday against Minnesota’s Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act mere hours before it took effect.

State Sen. Matt Little, a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), decried the move as “morally bankrupt” and “devoid of humanity.” In a Tuesday night tweet, Little also vowed: “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.”

The law in question is named for an uninsured 26-year-old diabetic who died in 2017 of complications from rationing his insulin because he couldn’t afford the medicine and related supplies after aging off his mother’s health insurance. After state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the measure, DFL Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law this April.

As MPR News explains:

Under the law, people with diabetes who can’t afford the essential medicine will be able to get 30-day supplies with no more than a $35 copay. A separate income-based program is established for those with needs that extend beyond that.

Drug makers are required to participate. If they don’t, they would face a series of escalating fines.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The drug industry group claims the measure is unconstitutional, arguing in the complaint (pdf) that “a state cannot simply commandeer private property to achieve its public policy goals.”

An PhRMA spokesperson told Brian Bakst of MPR News that “we are not seeking an emergency ruling to block the law from going into effect, but we think the law is unconstitutional and that the court should strike it down after it hears our challenge.”

The advocacy group Public Citizen noted the tragic death of the law’s namesake and denounced PhRMA’s suit as “beyond unconscionable.”


David Sirota@davidsirota
what stage of capitalism is this?

Public Citizen@Public_CitizenBREAKING: Pharma is suing to block Minnesota’s new insulin access law. The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was passed in honor of a 26-year-old who died rationing insulin. The law would’ve taken effect today. Pharma’s fighting it during a pandemic. Beyond unconscionable. https://pic.twitter.com/vzfBqPD3fo

Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec Smith’s mother, also took to Twitter to condemn PhRMA’s lawsuit and accuse drug companies of violating human rights.


Nicole Smith-Holt #insulin4all@NSmithholt12Do you know what I think is unconstitutional? @PhRMA determining the value of my life, of your life of my sons life!! @PhRMA determining who lives and dies, I think that is unconstitutional. These companies are violating our human rights, that is unconstitutional. #insulin4all

Brian Bakst@Stowydad

Drug manufacturers, through trade group PhRMA, are suing in federal court to try to halt implementation in Minnesota’s new insulin affordability law, which is set to take effect on July 1 #mnleg


Nicole Smith-Holt #insulin4all@NSmithholt12Do you know what I think is unconstitutional? @PhRMA determining the value of my life, of your life of my sons life!! @PhRMA determining who lives and dies, I think that is unconstitutional. These companies are violating our human rights, that is unconstitutional. #insulin4all

Brian Bakst@StowydadDrug manufacturers, through trade group PhRMA, are suing in federal court to try to halt implementation in Minnesota’s new insulin affordability law, which is set to take effect on July 1 #mnleg

Smith-Holt was not the only outraged parent of a diabetic. Saint Paul-based healthcare advocate Lija Greenseid wrote in a series of tweets that she felt “so deflated” and “duped by lawmakers,” calling out GOP state senators who she said “assured advocates that they had worked with the manufacturers to develop their plan.”


Lija Greenseid, PhD @Lija27
Phrma’s lawsuit against Alec’s Law really hurts. As the mom of a kid with Type 1 diabetes, I spent so much of my time for 2 years advocating for affordable insulin. I feel so deflated. We were duped by lawmakers. And people will continue to suffer and die.5:28 AM · Jul 1, 2020


Lija Greenseid, PhD @Lija27
Replying to @GrnMtnBot and @keithellisonGOP senators assured advocates that they had worked with the manufacturers to develop their plan. Advocates wanted a fee on the manufacturers and were told by GOP lawmakers that it would get hung up in court and not help anyone. Well, here we are anyway with their plan.

GOP state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka expressed disappointment with the suit in a written statement reported by MPR News. “Senate Republicans remain committed to providing emergency insulin for those in crisis no matter what happens with this poorly timed lawsuit,” Gazelka said.

State Attorney General Keith Ellison (DFL) tweeted Wednesday morning in response to PhRMA’s “attack” on the law that “we look forward to defending the people of Minnesota in court against this morally repugnant behavior.”

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