On Mar. 1, Eli Lilly, also known as Lilly, a pharmaceutical company that prides itself on “integrity, excellence and respect for people,” announced that they will be capping their insulin products at $35 for a one month’s supply of the life-saving medication. The change seeks to aid any diabetic, with or without commercial insurance coverage. About seven million individuals in the United States live with some form of diabetes, most of whom are dependent on insulin to live. This change comes after decades of activist efforts and public scrutiny on and off social media, ultimately leading to a change that has the potential to save lives.
After his acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk established new features on the app, including Twitter Blue, allowing for anyone to pay a monthly fee of $8 for the coveted blue check mark next to their display name. At first this change confused many, including the thousands that came across a particular tweet made by a fake account impersonating Lilly just five days after the feature was introduced.
The tweet above, posted Nov. 10, 2022, sparked fierce debates in all corners of the internet on whether insulin should be completely cost-free as well as the implications of anyone being able to acquire Twitter’s symbol of authentication at a relatively low cost. To many, this was “a sign the new feature is causing confusion and misinformation to spread on the platform,” according to Forbes.
Only two hours after the parody account made the damning tweet, the official Lilly account tweeted, “We apologize to those who have been served a misleading message from a fake Lilly account. Our official Twitter account is @LillyPad.”
The day following their apology, Lilly stock share price fell 4.37%, lowering their shares $16.08 down to $352.30. While many factors can contribute to the fluctuation of stock prices in a company like Lilly, the dip in price and the public outrage was noticeable and exigent.
While the recent change is drastic in many ways, Lilly has made insulin more available since 2020 when they launched their Lilly Insulin Value Program, designed to aid those eligible in receiving their insulin products for $35 or less. In the past, the program required an application, which would be reviewed and eligibility would be determined. This proved to be a band aid solution to a larger nationwide issue of insulin accessibility and affordability. According to Drugwatch, up to 16.5% of adults in America rationed their insulin as a result of high costs and inaccessibility in 2022.
President Joe Biden announced on Jan. 1, 2023 that as a part of the Inflation Reduction Act, seniors on Medicare or Medicaid can access Lilly’s insulin products at a $35 cap—setting the precedent for Lilly’s eventual decision to allow for everyone to take advantage of the price cap.
A week later, Biden would broadcast at the 2023 State of the Union address that “this life-saving benefit should apply to everyone, not just Medicare beneficiaries,” according to a White House statement released the day following Lilly’s Mar. 1 announcement.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) released an official statement after the news, applauding Lilly “for taking the important step to limit cost-sharing for its insulin” while “encourag[ing] other insulin manufacturers to do the same.”
“While we have been able to help achieve significant progress on the issue of insulin affordability, we know that our work is not done,” Charles “Chuck” Henderson, CEO of the ADA, said in the statement. “We will work to ensure that Eli Lilly’s patient assistance program is benefiting patients as intended and continue the fight so that everyone who needs insulin has access.”