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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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On 100 Year Anniversary of Insulin Discovery, A Renewed Call for Affordability and Access for All

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

St. Paul, MN - Today marks 100 years since insulin was first created at the University of Toronto. Minnesota legislators and advocates are marking the anniversary by renewing a call for affordability and access for everyone who needs insulin to live and be well.  

“This anniversary is a somber one because 100 years after insulin was gifted to the world it remains unaffordable to far too many people who need it to survive,” said Rep. Michael Howard (DFL - Richfield). “Here in Minnesota, we took an important step by passing Alec’s Law and it is already working to save lives, but the real celebration will come when we create a health care system that ensures prescription drugs are affordable for everyone who needs them.”  

Prior to the discovery of insulin in the 1920s, a diabetes diagnosis was considered a death sentence, with the main treatment consisting of starvation diets. Notably, its creators sold the patent for $1, but the life-saving medication has since skyrocketed in price, leading to many diabetics being unable to afford their insulin, sometimes with deadly consequences. In Minnesota, the year-old Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act is providing an emergency safety net to individuals with an urgent need for insulin, as well as a long-term assistance program. 

Since passing in Minnesota’s 2020 legislative session, Alec’s Law has passed in Maine and Colorado, with it being under consideration in several other states. In Minnesota, 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 are required to reimburse pharmacies for the insulin they dispense or send them replacement insulin at no cost. 

“Today marks the 100-year anniversary of insulin,” said Nicole Smith-Holt, Alec’s mother. “100 years ago the world was gifted with a way to keep loved ones alive who need to inject insulin, and today we remember that insulin is not affordable and people are dying due to the cost of a product that was gifted to the world.” 

While Alec’s Law focuses on emergency needs, legislators are renewing efforts for broader reforms to make prescription drugs more affordable, including capping co-pays for life-saving medicine (HF 2056 – Howard) and the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (HF 801 – Morrison).  

“Last session, we faced roadblocks on legislation that will make a significant dent in the cost of prescription drugs for Minnesotans,” said Rep. Howard. “Rising prescription drug costs are impacting families and seniors in every community across the state, and now is not the time to rest on our laurels.”  

Minnesotans in urgent need of a 30-day supply of affordable insulin should go to where they can see if they qualify, download the application, and learn how to apply today. More information on the significance of this day, the story of insulin, and how to support diabetics across the world can be found here.