Tribune Editorial: Stop playing politics with affordable insulin

Two bottles of insulin made by the same company are shown. NovoRapid (left) is sold in Canada for $40. NovoLog (right) is sold in the U.S. for $350. Tyler Schank / Forum News Service

No one should have to die because they can’t afford the life-saving medicine that has been proven to work.

That’s why it is imperative that state lawmakers find a compromise and solution to help lower the cost of insulin for Minnesotans who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

And that is a big group: About 330,000 adults in Minnesota have been diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, according to the state Department of Health.

But the skyrocketing cost of insulin has caused some Minnesotans to ration their insulin to make it last longer -- with some experiencing fatal complications.

For months, legislators in St. Paul have talked about ways to reduce or possibly cap insulin costs. DFL and Republicans even set a deadline last year to get the job done.


They didn’t.

The sticking point is money.

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Democrats want to hold the pharmaceutical manufacturers accountable for the increased costs of insulin. But their solution of charging a fee to manufacturers is punitive to those businesses, Republicans say.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has put forward a compromise bill for the new legislative session.

“Alec’s Bill would place a small fee on insulin manufacturers to create an emergency insulin fund so diabetics can get an emergency dose of insulin,” Walz wrote in a recent op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Centered around patients, the bill would create a safety net to ensure Minnesotans can get the insulin they need at a price they can afford. The bill had broad bipartisan support in the Legislature last year, but died in the Republican-controlled Senate.”

But there is some good news.


On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the opening day of the current session, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said an emergency insulin program is one area where legislators could find an agreement. An emergency program proposal passed the House, and already was on its way to a Senate committee later in the week.

The insulin manufacturers will not go quietly, however.

In a Thursday, Feb. 13, letter to lawmakers, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America said that the Democrats’ insulin program, which would require manufacturers to provide emergency supplies of insulin at no charge and without reimbursement, raises “constitutional concerns and violate the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause," according to a story from the Forum News Service.

We would remind our representatives in St. Paul that they are spending precious time. Time, like insulin, that is in short supply for some Minnesotans.

Penalizing or protecting Big Pharma is not the goal of this negotiation. The goal must be protecting citizens who need help.

Diabetes is not a political disease, and access to affordable or emergency insulin should not be treated as just another red vs. blue issue.

We implore our lawmakers to stop playing politics with affordable insulin.

It is time to get this problem solved.

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