U.S. Senator Tina Smith and Attorney General Keith Ellison Hear From Minnesotans Hit Hard by High Prescription Drug Prices During Pandemic

MINNESOTA [08/17/20]—Today U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Health Committee—and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison led a discussion about the impact of high prescription drug prices on Minnesotans during the pandemic, and the status of current efforts by large drug companies to undo Minnesota’s newly-enacted insulin affordability law.

Sen. Smith has held several events in the state regarding the high price of insulin and prescription drugs more broadly, where she’s heard stories from Minnesotans who cannot afford the prescription medications they need to survive. Since 2013, drug spending has grown faster than most other categories of medical spending. And recent data shows that one in four diabetes patients ration insulin because of costs.

If you missed the virtual roundtable you can watch it here.

“Americans and Minnesotans struggle every day to pay for the medicine they need—literally—to stay alive,” said Sen. Smith. “And we know that in this country, people pay more for their prescription drugs than they do in almost any other country… The lack of competition, the ways in which the big drug companies are protected from price competition… the price for that is paid by Minnesotans and Americans every day.”

“People have got to be able to afford their lives in this richest of all countries in the world, at a historic time when people are desperate to get the health care that they need, losing their jobs in some cases, people should not be causalities of COVID when it comes to the medicines that they need,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison. “And even before COVID.”

“I hear stories on a daily basis of people rationing, of people becoming homeless, people losing their savings, going into massive amounts of credit card debt just to maintain their life, to purchase insulin or other medications,” said Nicole Smith-Holt. “It’s a shame. It’s criminal.”

The group said that it is important that Minnesota’s newly-enacted insulin affordability law–now under attack in the courts by big drug companies–remain intact. Attorney General Ellison said fighting the companies’ lawsuit against the law was a state priority.

Sen. Smith has taken dozens of steps to address the high price of insulin and other prescription drugs. This month, she introduced legislation that would make the eventual COVID-19 vaccine free to everyone, regardless of insurance status. She also introduced a bill to prevent pharmaceutical companies from profiting off the pandemic by requiring manufacturers to price COVID-19 medications at an affordable rate. Specific to insulin, Sen. Smith introduced the bipartisan Emergency Access to Insulin Act to expand access to life-sustaining insulin to those who cannot afford it, hold manufacturers accountable for excessive insulin price increases, and promote market competition to drive down insulin prices.