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Pharma Giant Eli Lilly Congratulates Itself for Finally Cutting Insulin Costs (Kind of. For Some People.)

Protesters seen in silhouette holding signs calling for lower prescription drug prices.

Hey, guess what! More Americans with diabetes might be able to afford their rent or their grocery bills next month! Eli Lilly, the corporate pharmaceutical giant, has announced plans to cut the price of insulin for some consumers by up to 70 percent in some cases and cap the out-of-pocket cost for the life-saving drug at $35 per month.

“While the current healthcare system provides access to insulin for most people with diabetes, it still does not provide affordable insulin for everyone and that needs to change,” said David A. Ricks, the company’s Chair and CEO said via a news release Wednesday. “The aggressive price cuts we’re announcing today should make a real difference for Americans with diabetes.”

The announcement comes three weeks after the State of the Union address, where President Biden addressed the issue of high insulin costs that affect many of the roughly 37 million Americans that have diabetes saying, “Let’s cap the cost of insulin for everybody at $35!” Of course, it was the second year in a row Biden had that line in the SOTU, but way to stick with it, buddy! 

Eli Lilly’s plan seems like a big step in the right direction to make insulin more affordable, but it won’t happen for everybody yet. Seniors are definitely slated to benefit from the announcement, but what about people of other ages who use Eli Lilly products? As with most things in the healthcare world, the wording on their website about the program is super clear and user-friendly! Haha, just kidding! It’s pretty hard to parse exactly who this change will affect.

The actual wording of the new program at times seems like the cost reductions will only affect seniors on medicare. But Kelly Smith, a spokesperson for the company, told NBC News that the cap applies to all of Eli Lilly’s insulin products. However, the news release says right now the only products reduced in price are its non-branded insulin products, Insulin Lispro and Humalog. 

The company is automatically applying the price cap for Insulin to seniors who have private insurance and those without can sign up for Eli Lilly’s copay assistance program to qualify. But there’s no talk anywhere about those with diabetes who are not seniors. Make me understand! Then at the bottom of their press release, there’s a tiny bit of a caveat, saying, “Terms and conditions apply. At the majority of retail pharmacies. Government restrictions exclude people enrolled in federal government insurance programs from Lilly’s $35 solutions.” So, hmm. 

One thing that is perfectly clear from the Wednesday morning announcement is that this particular pharmaceutical giant is super proud of itself and wants a cookie. 

“We are calling on policymakers, employers, and others to join us in making insulin more affordable,” Ricks said in the release. “For the past century, Lilly has focused on inventing new and improved insulins and other medicines that address the impact of diabetes and improve patient outcomes.

“Our work to discover new and better treatments is far from over. We won’t stop until all people with diabetes are in control of their disease and can get the insulin they need.”

And the angels wept and made an extra special cookie for each pharm CEO who has been price-gouging you and your granny for the last two decades so he could have a gold toilet in the guest wing of his mansion. But seriously, yes, that is cool. It’s not as if you are the ones who have been actually setting the price of insulin. Right, go ahead and blame the insurers and the healthcare teams. 

In all seriousness, it looks like this new system will immediately kick in for seniors on medicare. The cap will also apply to seniors on other insurance who use Eli Lilly products and maybe a ton of other people too. So that’s great, Eli Lilly, but don’t feed us this price reduction like you’re doing something heaven-sent for us instead of beginning to dismantle your own damage. As Robert Reich, a former Secretary of Labor and my current Twitter crush, tweeted about the issue this morning, “This is good news, but we can’t forget that Eli Lily raised the price of Humalog by nearly 600% since 1996 (adjusted for inflation). Make no mistake, pressure works. Keep up the fight.”

(featured image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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