U.S. Senator Tina Smith Secures Bipartisan Support for Her Legislation to Ensure Millions of Americans with Diabetes Aren’t Forced Into Dangerous Practice of Rationing Insulin

WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/25/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s (D-Minn.) legislation to hold insulin manufacturers accountable for excessive increases in the price of life-sustaining insulin—announced last week in Minneapolis and set to be introduced later this week in remembrance of Minnesotan Alec Smith—secured bipartisan support thanks to Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) cosponsoring the Emergency Access to Insulin Act.

“Thank you to my colleague and neighbor Senator Cramer for supporting my legislation to provide Minnesotans and Americans with the insulin they need to survive, and to put us on a path to bring down the cost of insulin,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “This bill isn’t about a Republican issue or a Democratic issue—whether you’re in a red county, a blue county, or anywhere in between, this bill is about saving lives and putting forth a solution to address this national emergency.” 

“While 50,000 North Dakotans with diabetes rely on insulin as a life source, the cost of this life supporting biologic has increased astronomically and left many unable to afford it,” said Sen. Cramer. “I am pleased to join Senator Smith in proposing a short-term emergency access solution to assist those in need as we pursue a more permanent fix to this problem.”

The Emergency Access to Insulin Act would:

•    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;
•    Ensure insulin manufacturers have skin in the game and take part in ensuring Minnesotans and Americans can access the insulin they need by holding manufacturers accountable to fund SIAPs;
•    Penalize insulin manufacturers for their history of excessive insulin price spikes, and for future increases in insulin prices beyond inflation; and
•    Promote insulin market competition by reducing exclusivity periods for insulin and other biologics from 12 years to 7 years to bring “generic” or biosimilar insulin to market faster.
You can access a summary of the legislation here.

Sen. Smith has made bringing down the high cost of prescription drugs a top priority, and Minnesotan Nicole Smith-Holt has long been a partner in that fight. Smith-Holt tragically lost her son, Alec, when the high price of insulin forced him to ration his supply. Last year, Sen. Smith invited Smith-Holt to take part in a hearing in Washington, D.C. titled “America Speaks Out: The Urgent Need to Tackle Health Care Costs and Prescription Drug Prices” because Sen. Smith believes it’s important for her colleagues to hear directly from Minnesotans.
Last month, a number of measures championed by Sen. Smith were included in a bipartisan package to address the rising cost of health care released by the Senate Health Committee—on which she serves—including her efforts to help bring lower-cost insulin and generic drugs to market. Both her bipartisan Protecting Access to Biosimilars Act and the Ensuring Innovation Act were added to the package.
And just this month, Sen. Smith introduced comprehensive legislation to hold large pharmaceutical companies accountable for high prices and bring down costs for Americans. Her Affordable Medications Act is a comprehensive set of reforms that would promote transparency by requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose just how much money is going toward research and development, as well as marketing and pay for executives. The bill would also end the restriction that prevents the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for its beneficiaries, and curb drug company monopoly practices that keep prices high and prevent less expensive generics from coming to the market.