“No one should have to choose between affording their lives and affording to live”: AG Ellison, Governor Walz celebrate dismissal of challenge to Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act

March 15, 2021 (ST. PAUL) Today Attorney General Keith Ellison issued the following statement regarding the dismissal of a challenge to the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act.   

"No one should have to choose between affording their lives and affording to live. The legislature passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act so that no Minnesotan would have to die like Alec did when he could not afford the medication that kept him alive. I'm gratified the court saw through Big Pharma's meritless challenge to the law and dismissed the case."  

"I met Alec's fearless mother, Nicole Smith-Holt, almost 3 years ago. Barely a day goes by that I don't think of the story she told me of Alec's needless, tragic death. And barely a day goes by when I don’t admire the fight that Nicole took on to make sure that no other Minnesota family ever suffers a loss like hers. She channeled her mother’s grief over losing her son into saving the lives of sons and daughters and mothers and fathers in every corner of Minnesota. This win today is her win.” 

When Minneapolis resident Alec Smith aged off his mother's health insurance, he started to ration his insulin because he could not afford it on his restaurant manager salary. As a result of rationing his insulin, he died in 2017 of ketoacidosis at age 26.  

“Every Minnesotan deserves affordable access to the medicine they need to survive, and I am grateful to the advocates who fought so hard for the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, which I was honored to sign into law this past summer,” said Governor Tim Walz. “The Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Program is saving lives, and I am glad that today’s ruling is in favor of all Minnesotans who depend on this medicine every day of their lives.” 

The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act became law through the tireless advocacy of Alec's family and the families of other victims of insulin price hikes.  These families turned their grief into action to save other lives. It passed both the House and the Senate with strong bi-partisan support and was signed into law by Governor Walz at a virtual signing ceremony filled with families and patients who have been impacted by the high cost of this life-saving medication.   

Under the law, eligible individuals in urgent need of insulin can go to their pharmacy once in a 12-month period and receive a one-time, 30-day supply of insulin for a $35 co-pay. The long-term program requires manufacturers to provide insulin to eligible individuals for up to one year, available in 90-day increments for a co-pay of no more than $50. Manufacturers must reimburse pharmacies for the insulin they dispense or send them replacement insulin at no cost.  

The challenge, brought by a lobbying group for pharmaceutical manufacturers, asked the Court to halt the program and strike down the law under the Takings Clause of the Constitution.  Today, the court dismissed the lawsuit and held that Big Pharma could not assert the Takings Clause to seek an injunction halting the program. 

According to a recent report by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy Alec’s Law has already helped 465 Minnesotans access affordable insulin.  With the dismissal of this challenge, the program can continue to protect Minnesotans with diabetes and ensure they have access to life-maintaining medicine.   

In response to this decision, the Cody Wiberg, Executive Director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said: 

“The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy welcomes the court’s decision.  The Minnesota Insulin Safety Net Program has provided much needed assistance to Minnesotans who are having difficulty affording the life-sustaining insulin that they need to manage diabetes.  Today’s decision means that Minnesotans can continue receiving insulin through the program, rather than having to ration insulin or going without it entirely.”