Politics and Government

Drug makers sue over Minnesota's new prescription price controls

Helping a customer
Minneapolis resident Sally Jorgensen talks about her prescription with pharmacist Tom Sengupta at Schneider Drug in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2015

Updated: 7:54 p.m.

A trade association that represents makers of generic medicines sued Wednesday over a new Minnesota law intended to hold down prescription drug price increases.

The Association for Accessible Medicines sued in U.S. District Court, claiming the price-control law passed this year violates the federal commerce clause. The law took effect on Saturday.

This case is just the latest legal challenge to actions taken in the 2023 session. Lawsuits have also been filed around bills approved for higher education, voting rights and campaign finance.

In pushing the prescription drug bill, Minnesota lawmakers said they were attempting to stop what they see as excessive increases in prescription drug costs. Among the measures used to determine an excessive spike is when an increase is more than $30 for a 30-day supply or a course of treatment lasting less than that. 

The new law carries steep civil penalties — up to $10,000 per day per violation — or requires manufacturers to pay a $500,000 penalty if they pull their products out of Minnesota to avoid compliance.

The group representing generic and biosimilar drug makers argue in their case that Minnesota lacks power to regulate prices in this fashion and could harm the supply chain for medication.

“A decision permitting state regulation like Minnesota’s would allow all 50 states to adopt their own views of what price increases are ‘excessive,’ making compliance prohibitive if not impossible and disrupting patients’ access to affordable generic and biosimilar products throughout the country,” the association’s attorneys wrote in their court filing.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing enforcement and attorney’s fees.

Attorney General Keith Ellison is named as the defendant. He said high prescription drug costs have made them unaffordable to those who need the treatments.

“Before this past legislative session, Minnesota was one of only 13 states that had no restrictions on any kind of price-gouging; now, Minnesota has reasonable restrictions on excessive and unconscionable price increases that include generic pharmaceutical drugs,” Ellison said in a written statement. “While we have not yet been served with the lawsuit, we will review it and vigorously defend the law in court.”

Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, is a doctor and wrote the policy. She said Minnesotans were struggling with prescription drug prices and the law could help change that.

“We know from past experience that the pharmaceutical industry will challenge any attempt to rein in drug prices,” Morrison said in a statement. “They have every right to challenge this law, but I am confident that the law is both constitutional and necessary. Ensuring that Minnesotans can afford the medicines they need is a key part of making our state one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.”

Lawmakers were anticipating a likely legal challenge when they passed the pricing law. They included a section allowing the rest of a broader commerce policy and budget bill to stand even if the drug provision is struck down.