Federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Alec Smith insulin affordability program

Pharmaceutical manufacturers argued in a lawsuit that Minnesota's insulin affordability program violates the U.S. Constitution. A U.S. Judge for the District of Minnesota dismissed the case.

James Holt, left, and Nicole Smith-Holt, right, celebrated after the Minnesota House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, approved a bill named after their late son Alec Smith. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by a pharmaceutical group challenging Minnesota’s recently adopted insulin affordability program .

U.S. District Judge David Doty on Monday, March 15, dismissed without prejudice the lawsuit, which claimed that Minnesota’s recently enacted Alec Smith Insulin Affordability program violated the U.S. Constitution's Fifth and 14th amendments.

The bill’s namesake, Alec Smith, was a 26-year-old Minnesotan with Type 1 diabetes who died in 2017 while rationing his insulin, which became too expensive for him to afford after he aged out of his parents’ health insurance coverage. The state program includes both long- and short-term insulin affordability plans for Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin, which can cost hundreds of dollars per vial without insurance or coupons.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) filed their lawsuit on July 1, the day the law took effect.

Under Alec’s Law, Minnesotans facing a short-term emergency insulin shortage who cannot afford the medicine can go to their pharmacy and get a 30-day supply for $35. Those in need of a long-term supply can apply to receive insulin supplies in 90-day increments for no more than $50, for up to one year. Manufacturers are required to reimburse pharmacies for the insulin dispensed through the program, or send them replacement supplies at no cost.


PhRMA in its lawsuit claimed that the law violates the Fifth and 14th amendments' Takings Clause, which prohibits the state from taking manufacturers' private property for public use without compensation.

In a Tuesday news release, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said he was “gratified the court saw through Big Pharma's meritless challenge to the law and dismissed the case."

"No one should have to choose between affording their lives and affording to live,” he said. “The Legislature passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act so that no Minnesotan would have to die like Alec did when he could not afford the medication that kept him alive.”

PhRMA's senior director of public affairs Nick McGee in a Tuesday afternoon written statement told Forum News Service that the group is "reviewing the decision and considering (its) next steps."

"The judge did not refute our argument that the law is unconstitutional," McGee said. "Instead, he decided that the constitutional claim should be brought in state court, not federal court. We disagree and continue to believe that the claim may be brought in federal court."

According to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy’s annual report released on March 8, 465 Minnesotans have taken advantage of both the long- and short-term insulin affordability programs since they went into effect July 1.

Minnesotans in need of insulin assistance can find more information at

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at or 651-290-0707.
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