Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday announced plans for a task force aimed at lowering pharmaceutical drug costs.

Flanked by lawmakers and Minnesotans who described struggling to afford medications needed for serious ailments, Ellison made a push for applicants to serve on the 15-member advisory task force.

“I’ve heard from people in every corner of Minnesota that they’re having trouble affording their lives — and the cost of prescription drugs is a major factor in that,” Ellison said. “They’re all united in one simple idea; they’re entitled to afford their lives — and drug prices are too high.”

Applications for the task force will be open through March 17 and the group will first meet in April. Ellison said the group would consider possible litigation and legislative strategies to lower drug costs.

Nicole Smith-Holt, of Richfield, whose 26-year-old son Alec died last year after rationing insulin he couldn’t afford, joined Ellison after the attorney general underlined her son’s story last month in his inaugural address.

“It turned out that the cost of my son’s life was $1,300 a month,” Smith-Holt said. “Pharma is pricing people out of their lives.”

Four of the task force seats will be reserved for two lawmakers from each party in both the state House and Senate. The task force will take testimony from Minnesotans on the topic and its directive coincides with legislation being sought this session to improve drug price transparency and to lower costs.

“Minnesotans are paying too much and they’re going without lifesaving prescription drugs,” said state Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, who is sponsoring similar legislation this session. “This is morally wrong.


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