A pharmaceutical-industry group is suing the state of Minnesota over its new insulin-affordability program, which took effect Wednesday.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, said the program the Legislature passed in April is unconstitutional and that drugmakers already offer alternatives to help people with diabetes. They are seeking a permanent injunction barring the state from enforcing the insulin act.
Lawmakers and advocates for the measure argued that the existing programs drug companies provide are insufficient. After a protracted political battle at the State Capitol, they reached a deal legislators said would ensure people struggling with the skyrocketing price of the critical drug have a low-cost resource to secure it.
The new law requires insulin manufacturers to supply the drug or reimburse pharmacies giving out insulin. Companies that fail to provide the drug face fines.
As the Legislature was working to develop the insulin program, PhRMA and some Republican lawmakers repeatedly raised concerns about its constitutionality.
“A state cannot simply commandeer private property to achieve its public policy goals,” said PhRMA’s complaint, filed Tuesday in district court. “The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from attempting to solve societal problems in this draconian manner.”
Gov. Tim Walz and other backers of the program gathered Wednesday to celebrate its implementation expressed frustration at the lawsuit. The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was named in honor of a man who died because he was not able to afford his medication.
“In some ways this has been the playbook from big PhRMA, to fight accountability and any sense of responsibility for the welfare of Minnesotans,” said Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield.
Howard stressed the program is now “the law of the land.” Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said the board has directed pharmacies to comply with the law and believes they will follow it.
Advocates will not allow the lawsuit to alter their work to push for affordable insulin for everyone, said Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec’s mother. She said the law is necessary to prevent “senseless tragedies like the death of Alec and others from occurring in Minnesota.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, echoed Howard’s disappointment over the lawsuit, particularly after legislators spent so much time working on a compromise bill.
“Senate Republicans remain committed to providing emergency insulin for those in crisis no matter what happens with this poorly timed lawsuit,” Gazelka said in a statement.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, who will represent the state in the case, said his office will defend the insulin legislation “with every resource we have.”
Staff writer Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.