Amid congressional gridlock on drug prices, some states have taken matters into their own hands. That’s the case in Minnesota, where activists and officials lauded the passing of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act.
But on the eve of a Wednesday press conference celebrating the bill becoming law, PhRMA sued. The industry trade group is seeking a court’s declaration that the law is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction barring its enforcement.
The act, which Gov. Tim Walz signed Wednesday, provides relief to diabetes patients who are unable to afford their insulin, offering an “urgent” 30-day supply for a copay of up to $35. It also provides a year of insulin to eligible patients for no more than $50 per 90-day refill.
The law was the result of a compromise with the industry, Walz said at a press conference celebrating its signing. He “never heard a word” that the industry would sue.
“I gotta be honest, they did something I didn’t think was possible,” he said. “They’re more hated than COVID-19.”
The law is named after a diabetes patient who died after rationing his insulin, Walz said. His family and others were in attendance at the Wednesday press conference.
For its part, PhRMA says the act violates the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibit the state from “taking manufacturers’ private property for public use without just compensation.”
PhRMA general counsel James Stansel said in a statement the “law is unconstitutional, overlooks common-sense solutions to help patients afford their insulin and, despite its claims, still allows for patients to be charged at the pharmacy for the insulin that manufacturers are required to provide for free.”
In response to the suit, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said Wednesday the industry “may continue fighting, but so will we.”
“And we have the advantage of being right,” she added.
The lawsuit comes as the pharma industry has enjoyed a boost to its reputation due to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the episode clearly illustrates that drug prices are still an important issue in America, and that the industry stands to face intense criticism when it pushes back against affordability measures.