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After Long Road to Passage, MN Insulin Bill Faces Lawsuit

Minnesota's insulin affordability law, which now faces legal action, creates a low-cost avenue for diabetics who can't afford the drug to obtain the medicine. (Adobe Stock)
Minnesota's insulin affordability law, which now faces legal action, creates a low-cost avenue for diabetics who can't afford the drug to obtain the medicine. (Adobe Stock)
July 2, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota's new insulin affordability program went into effect this week, but it's already facing a court challenge.

Advocates who worked to get the law passed have said they feel somewhat misled about its legal vulnerability, but still are hopeful about its future.

After a lengthy debate in the Legislature, Minnesota adopted the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which provides access to emergency supplies of the drug for those who meet eligibility requirements.

Alec Smith's mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, has been a leading advocate for the law. Her son died after being forced to ration his insulin.

Today, Smith-Holt is a T-1 International Charity Ambassador and director of the nonprofit Minnesota Insulin for All.

After all the work that went into passing the law, she said, the court action has her feeling as though she's been caught off-guard.

"There possibly could have been ways to create this program to avoid the possibility of litigation," she noted, adding that given the industry's powerful reach, it's also possible that a lawsuit was inevitable, no matter how the program's rules were drafted.

The pharmaceutical industry's trade group is asking a court to declare the law unconstitutional, saying drug-makers shouldn't be forced to provide the drug at little or no cost or face fines.

Gov. Tim Walz said he also was surprised to hear of the lawsuit. He described the industry as cooperative leading up to the launch and did not indicate a challenge was coming.

However, Smith-Holt is confident the state attorney general will prevail in defending the program, and said she hopes the legal battle won't scare away those in desperate need of insulin: "People need to utilize the program while it's still in place."

The pharmaceutical industry has said it will not seek a temporary injunction, meaning the program will continue to operate while the case is argued.

The price of insulin has skyrocketed in recent years, and activists say accessibility has turned into a life-or-death situation for many diabetics.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN