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Minnesota lawmakers open discussions on high insulin costs

Minnesota lawmakers have heard from patients and families dealing with diabetes that they need help with the soaring cost of insulin.

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 10:03 AM
Updated: Dec 12, 2018 11:49 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers are considering steps they could take to rein in the soaring cost of insulin, which one couple says has become so expensive that their diabetic son could no longer afford it and died.

State Sen. Matt Little convened an informal discussion at the state Capitol on Tuesday to gather information ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. The Lakeville Democrat said the cost of insulin is "immorally high" and that there appears to be no rational reason for the cost increases. He said he has drafted several bills aimed at controlling insulin costs, including one that would cap prices in the state.

James Holt Jr. and Nicole Smith-Holt, of Richfield, told lawmakers how their 26-year-old son, Alec Smith, died last year because he couldn't afford his monthly diabetes supplies after he became too old to remain on their health insurance plan.

"I can imagine how scary it was for Alec to walk out of that pharmacy without his life-saving insulin," his mother said. "He left that day because he did not have the $1,300 that the pharmacist was charging him for insulin supplies."

An Associated Press investigation published in September found that despite President Donald Trump's campaign promise to reduce drug costs, price increases are far more common than price cuts. Over the first seven months of the year, there were 96 price hikes for every price cut, the AP found. The AP also asked 24 large drug companies this summer if they planned to cut drug prices. None said they did, though some didn't answer.

Minnesota isn't the only state where patients are calling for affordable insulin. The Right Care Alliance of patients and health care worker staged Mother's Day weekend rallies across the country against what they called "insulin profiteering" in May, including one in Cambridge, Massachusetts , that included a march to the offices of insulin-makers Sanofi and Eli Lilly and one at the Minnesota Capitol , where Smith's parents spoke.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing three big insulin makers, alleging that they inflated prices through deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud.

PhRMA, the industry trade group, said consumers are paying higher prices because insurers and pharmacy benefit managers aren't passing along discounts and rebates.

"We believe tasking the government with setting prices isn't the right solution and would be harmful to innovation and patients' access," PhRMA spokesman Nick McGee said. "Instead, insurers should share more of the discounts they receive directly with patients."

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Reported Deaths: 1511
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Hennepin12456787
Ramsey4911228
Dakota238291
Stearns237119
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Washington111440
Mower9522
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Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 31670

Reported Deaths: 722
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6638179
Woodbury325244
Black Hawk230158
Buena Vista171411
Johnson13148
Linn129482
Dallas128029
Marshall104919
Scott81510
Story7793
Pottawattamie73612
Wapello70830
Dubuque70222
Crawford6772
Muscatine64344
Sioux4770
Tama46529
Wright3861
Louisa36213
Jasper32517
Plymouth3225
Warren2901
Dickinson2663
Washington2439
Webster2292
Hamilton1891
Cerro Gordo1821
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1322
Allamakee1314
Mahaska11617
Shelby1140
Clinton1121
Poweshiek1068
Carroll991
Pocahontas971
Bremer946
Des Moines922
Franklin900
Emmet880
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Hardin770
Monona770
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Guthrie664
Jefferson640
Sac640
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Jones610
Butler572
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Humboldt551
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Lee542
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Iowa530
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