Senator Smith Reintroduces Legislation to Provide Free Emergency Insulin on Rx Companies’ Dime

WASHINGTON [5.11.23] – This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) reintroduced legislation to hold insulin manufacturers accountable for excessive increases in the price of life-sustaining insulin. The Emergency Access to Insulin Act would provide emergency access to insulin for people in Minnesota and across the country who can’t afford the skyrocketing price of the drug that they need to stay alive.

“Over a million people are rationing their insulin so they can afford it. And sometimes, they are paying with their lives,” said Sen. Smith. “This bill will allow states to set up a program to provide insulin on an emergency basis, put insulin manufacturers on the hook by requiring them to foot the bill for these programs, hold these manufacturers accountable for gouging the price of insulin, and promote market competition to drive down the price of insulin. This bill holds the right people accountable. To the greedy practice of wielding market power to continually increase prices and make billions off a drug that has been around for over a century, this bill says—no more. This is about providing Minnesotans and Americans with the insulin they need to survive.”

“We’ve seen firsthand over the last several months that the pressure we’ve put on drug companies to lower insulin costs is working, and today’s bill is the next step in our fight to make insulin affordable for every American who needs it,” said Rep. Craig. “I’m grateful to Rep. Phillips and Sen. Smith for their partnership on this important issue.”

Senator Smith originally introduced the Emergency Access to Insulin Act in 2019 alongside Minnesotan Nicole Smith-Holt who tragically lost her son, Alec, when the high price of insulin forced him to ration his supply.

“In 2017, my son Alec rationed his insulin and passed away from complications related to diabetic ketoacidosis. The real cause of death was pharmaceutical greed,” said Nicole Smith-Holt T1International’s Ambassador and Leader of Families United for Affordable Insulin (FUFAI). FUFAI is a group that provides outreach, support and guidance for families grieving the loss of loved ones impacted by the insulin price crisis. “We must ensure there are no more deaths because of a lack of ability to afford insulin. A century after it’s discovery, insulin should be available and affordable to everyone.”

Over 37 million Americans have diabetes, including 8.4 million who require insulin for survival. Insulin has become increasingly unaffordable for patients—a recent study estimated that 1.3 million adults in the U.S. rationed insulin over a one year period. Since coming to the Senate, Smith has been focused on lowering the cost of prescription medications like insulin. This week, in a Senate Health Committee hearing, Smith spoke with witnesses and pressed her colleagues on making sure uninsured individuals have access to insulin.

The Emergency Access to Insulin Act, would:

  1. Establish State Insulin Assistance Programs (SIAPs) by providing federal grants so states can set up SIAPs, which would provide a short-term insulin supply for uninsured and underinsured patients and help patients identify state, federal, and private options to improve insulin affordability long-term;
  2. Ensure that Minnesotans and Americans can access the insulin they need by holding manufacturers accountable to fund SIAPs;
  3. Penalize insulin manufacturers for their history of excessive insulin price spikes, and for future increases in insulin prices beyond inflation; and
  4. Promote insulin market competition by reducing exclusivity periods for insulin and other biologics from 12 years to 7 years to bring “generic” or biosimilar insulins to market faster.