February 21, 2019 | Office of Attorney General Keith Ellison

Press Release

Attorney General Ellison starts task force for lowering the cost of pharmaceutical drugs

Ellison: Minnesotans are ‘united in one simple idea: they’re entitled to afford their lives — and drug prices are too high’

February 21, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — As part of his goal of helping people afford their lives, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today announced that his office is forming a task force for lowering the cost of pharmaceutical drugs.

At a press conference with legislators, advocates, and Minnesotans who are struggling to afford their lives and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, Ellison said, “As the People’s Lawyer, 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. They’re all united in one simple idea; they’re entitled to afford their lives — and drug prices are too high.”

Attorney General Ellison stressed some of the known causes of the skyrocketing cost of pharmaceutical drugs: patents are abused, pricing is not transparent, pharmacy benefit managers are opaque, and markets are concentrated. As one result, the price of insulin has increased 1200 percent in 20 years.

To address this problem, Ellison said that the Advisory Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices will “gather in the best thinking” in order to come up with “multi-pronged strategies” to lower prices. These will include legislation and litigation, but will not be limited to them.

People can apply to serve on the 15-member Advisory Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices through March 17 via the Open Appointments process on the Secretary of State’s website.

Attorney General Ellison was joined by several people who spoke of their struggles with the high cost of prescription drugs.

All of them supported Attorney General Ellison’s task force and called on people to join it and share their stories.

Legislators who are working on different aspects of controlling and bringing down the high cost of prescription drugs joined Attorney General Ellison at the press conference. Representative John Lesch of Saint Paul called it “morally wrong” that people “should lose their lives, or even their livelihoods” because of the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs, particularly ones for which the price has been raised unconscionably high. Senator Matt Little said, “Time after time, the pharmaceutical manufacturers have proven that they’re morally bankrupt.” He said of the many reasons that pharmaceutical companies give for why pharmaceutical drug prices cannot be lower, “we’re not buying that.” He concluded, “They think we don’t see through them, but we do — and we’re coming for you.”

Also joining Attorney General Ellison were Representative Kelly Morrison, a physician, and Representative Mike Howard, both of whom are also authoring legislation to make prescription drug costs transparent and bring them down, including the cost of insulin. 

Four of the 15 seats on the task force are reserved for two legislators from each party from each house of the Legislature.

The Advisory Task force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Prices will begin meeting in April. Its first order of business will be to set timelines and topics of reports back to the Attorney General and the people of Minnesota, and to set up locations and times to hear the stories and testimony of Minnesotans from all walks of life about the high prices of prescription drugs and what can be done to bring them down.

Attorney General Ellison stressed that just as he has been working with legislators of both parties to support legislation around the cost of prescription drugs, he wants people of all parties and viewpoints to apply to serve on the Task Force. As Ms. Clemons said, “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. This is not a party issue. This is a people issue.”

Audio and video of Attorney General Ellison’s press conference are available on Twitter at @AGEllison.