​​Student Opinion: Eli Lilly Twitter Backlash

 

By Kayla Ngai

Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical company, is under fire after a Twitter troll faked their identity. For more context, Elon Musk bought Twitter for 44 million dollars, but according to Musk, “the company [Twitter] is losing over $4M/day.” To combat his ill-advised purchase, Elon Musk modified the blue verification tick. Musk is charging eight dollars per month for every user that wants to be “verified.” Thus, for the debatable low cost of eight dollars, anybody can be verified and pretend to be another account: enter the falsely verified Eli Lilly account. 

 

On November 10, 2022, a user pretending to be on the Eli Lilly page tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” After this tweet goes viral, Eli Lilly had to respond with the truth—that they were, in fact, not giving out insulin free of cost. However, this did not assuage Twitter users from calling out Eli Lilly for their greed. 

 

According to PharmaNewsIntelligence, Eli Lilly currently sells individual vials of insulin for 82.41 dollars, and whole packs of 5 will be 159.12 dollars. Insulin is also considered “Eli Lilly’s biggest revenue driver.” Life-saving medicine should not have this high of a cost for each vial! 

 

Especially considering the number of individuals who struggle to make ends meet, I believe that insulin should be made accessible and pharmaceutical companies should not capitalize off people’s will to live. Eli Lilly deserves all the backlash they are receiving.  

 

In response to the whole debacle, Scott Hanselman mentioned in his tweet that “the patent [for insulin] was sold for $1 to U of Toronto.” He is referencing the fact that in 1923, “Banting, Collip, and Best were awarded U.S. patents on insulin and the method used to make it. They all sold these patents to the University of Toronto for $1 each. Banting famously said, ‘Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.’”

 

They wanted insulin to be accessible to everyone because they knew how important the medicine was for treating and living with diabetes. Insulin revolutionizes health care and has the capability to help so many people if they are able to receive it. 

 

Another user, Andy Slavitt, augments the conversation via Twitter, “The patent for insulin was sold for $3 in 1922 under the premise that the human body produces it, and if someone can’t produce enough, no one ought to profit.” Having insulin made accessible is vital and should be considered a human right. We should want healthcare to be more available, instead, medicine costs are padded to increase profit margins.    

 

This monopoly on medicine is not limited to insulin as many other pharmaceutical drugs are being sold to the public at overly inflated prices. When you look up “the most hated man in the world,” the search engine will spit out Martin Shkreli. He was the chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals in 2017 and raised the price of Daraprim (a drug that originally cost 13.50 dollars) to 750 dollars.

 

Daraprim is primarily used to treat AIDS patients and, as AIDS is a life-threatening disease, this type of inflation makes Daraprim extremely inaccessible and should be considered morally unacceptable. 

 

Although the issues with the pricing of insulin and other medicinal drugs are not new, the blue tick has brought new traction. As a result of this whole situation, Eli Lilly’s stocks are plummeting and they halted advertisements (which is one of Twitter’s biggest revenue streams) from the Twitter platform. 

 

They will continue to lose a lot of money, but Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies should drop the prices of insulin and other life-saving medicines. A 2018 study mentions that insulin takes less than five dollars to make, so it is unjustified for these companies to charge over 50 dollars. 

 

According to the Common Wealth Fund, “The U.S. spends more on health care than any other high-income country but has the lowest life expectancy.” This is due to healthcare being run like a business. Big corporations do not care about the people, only profit. 

 

The fake Eli Lilly revived a continuous conversation about corporate greed in healthcare. Hopefully, this will bring about change in the industry. The inflation of medicine has led to suffering and death around the country and this can no longer be labeled as just wrong, but also greatly unethical. It comes down to the fact that medicine should always be treated as a human right and be accessible to everyone in need.

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